|PETS, PICTURES AND PRESENTS
By Rose Reifsnyder
Every time my basset hound flops his face on his paws, I race for the camera. Snap! When my sister’s Chihuahua bares her tiny teeth – snap! When my friend’s poodle-pointer sprints for the Frisbee – snap again!
Those of us lucky enough to share our lives with a dog understand the power of the human-canine bond. It is founded on love, companionship and unbridled enthusiasm for another day at the dog park. Why not preserve those feelings now and for the future? It takes only a digital camera and an Internet connection to create mementos that honor the special relationships forged between people and their pets.
Digital pet photographs easily become gifts for you and your friends and family. The first step is taking the picture, and everything from watching TV to flying to Europe with a dog qualifies as a photo-worthy event. Keep these five basic tips in mind every time you point your camera at a furry friend:
(1) Go eye to eye. Snap photos at the dog’s eye level. This gives him dignity, and increases the odds you’ll capture a doggie grin.
(2) Move in closer. Try to be no more than two to five feet from the dog, and let him fill the frame.
(3) Avoid distracting backgrounds. Check for table legs and discarded soda cans cluttering the space behind the dog.
(4) Let the dog be a dog. Most dogs won’t pose, so you’ll have to follow them around. Be ready to snap at a moment’s notice.
(5) Take dozens of shots. Shoot and shoot and shoot. Fill up your memory card. The more pictures you take, the more likely it is you’ll create a masterpiece.
Turning a digital photo into a gift is simple. And sometimes it’s free. Computer wallpaper and e-mailed pictures cost nothing, and you may be surprised how much a friend appreciates receiving the images.
Shuttterfly (www.shutterfly.com), Kodak (www.kodakgallery.com) and Dotphoto (www.dotphoto.com) provide free storage space for online albums, and offer a variety of presents for sale on the Web. The most basic gift is a picture printed on high-quality photographic paper. Print sizes range from wallet-sized to poster-sized, and cost about $0.25 per 4” x 6” print and $23 per 20” x 30” print. For an extra charge, you can have the photo framed and shipped to anyone you please.
Printed pet photographs also make great gift tags. I write a personal message on the front or back of the picture using a special pen, such as Fiskars Metallic Photo Writers, then punch a hole in one corner and tie it to a wrapped gift. It’s like giving (and receiving) two gifts in one.
Photographs can also be arranged into scrapbooks. Several of my friends fill small albums with pictures of a special friend and their pet, and personalize the pages by writing a few lines that tell the story behind the snapshot. Supplies such as a scrapbook ($30) and giant paw punch ($12) can be ordered at Good Dog Express (www.gooddogexpress.com).
Of course, digital pictures can also be transferred to mugs, T-shirts, Christmas tree ornaments and key chains. They can be made into coasters, stickers and note cards. And magnets and puzzles.
Every Christmas, I order a calendar ($20 to $25) for my boyfriend John. It features the year’s twelve best photographs of our basset hound Howard. John likes the calendars because they’re personalized and he gets to see a new picture of the hound every month. For John’s birthday last year, I ordered him a mouse pad printed with his favorite picture of the dog. He keeps it on the desk in his office and told me, “When work gets really hectic, I stop for a minute and ‘go to the hound.’ Seeing his goofy face gets me back on track.”
Some specialized online stores turn digital pet photographs into an array of unexpected gift items. Light Affection (www.lightaffection.com), for example, will convert an image into a nightlight for around $40 or into a lamp for $120 to $240. Personal Creations (www.personalcreations.com) offers a dizzying selection of gifts for all budgets, including ties, purses, pillows and Victorian quilts. Canvas Ceramic (www.canvasceramic.com) creates floor, wall and swimming pool tiles for about $12 to $24 per tile. A quick search on Google will also turn up companies ready to etch your pet photo inside crystal for $20 to $700 (www.crystalmagic.com), bake it into an edible birthday cake decoration for $10 (www.bakedjustforyou.com) and recreate it as a custom-carved wood sculpture (www.woodsculptureart.com) for a price quoted by the artist.
A few years ago, my boyfriend received a special present from his aunt Marge. He had flown cross-country to visit her, and had taken our dog Howard with him. Marge took dozens of pictures of Howard, and sent one of them to a company that makes hooked rugs from photographs. It took two weeks for my boyfriend to realize the basset on the rug wasn’t just any basset, it was Howard. He immediately called Marge and they talked for a long while. One company offering this service is McAdoo Rugs. Go to www.mcadoorugs.com and click on “How to Order a McAdoo Rug.” Prices depend on size and complexity.
Another innovative company, Pets On Rugs (www.PetsOnRugs.com) will create a durable rug with your dog’s image on it. These rugs---which come in a variety of sizes--- are easily cleaned and the company says they will never fade, because your pet's image is injection-dyed into the carpet, not merely stamped on the surface.
Canvas on Demand (www.canvasondemand.com) will print your digital image on a textured canvas that replicates a fine art painting for about $60 to $140 for an 8” x 10” and 24” x 36” respectively. Gift-givers with a penchant for original art can commission an artist to paint a dog portrait from a photograph. Artists offering animal portrait services on the Web include Betsy Doody (www.CanineArt.com) Nina T. Dillof (www.loveamutt.com) and Christine Savella (www.savyportraits.com). Their prices range from about $100 to more than $2500 depending on the size of the canvas.
Giving gifts can be just as fun as receiving them. Climb mountains, travel the world or sit on the porch with your dog friends – just don’t forget your camera. Then spend a few minutes at the computer and turn those digital memories into keepsakes that will last a lifetime