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Month of Firsts or as Brene Brown Would Say FFTs

Author and speaker Brene Brown is an absolutely wondrous and wise person. She recently started the podcast “Unlocking Us with Brene Brown.“The very first episode she explains that we are all experiencing what she has dubbed FFTs. F%*^ing First Times. None of us has ever lived through this type of crisis. It’s our First Time. And First Times come with anxiety and fear. She give lots of great advice and anecdotes in her podcast, highly recommended.

What strikes me is my personal timing. Today is my birthday. Day 20 of self isolation. And day 2 of my annual Month of Firsts. I don’t think I have ever shared this self challenge. Three years ago I realized that it would be easy for me to fall into habits and ruts very easily. To combat that I decided that every year during my birthday month of April I would “Try Something New Every Day”. An FFT or just FT if you will. 

This will be fairly difficult in isolation but I am committing to it for the month anyway. As my FT for today I am going to share my New Thing with you all for the first time ever. On this blog every Friday I will post a recap of the week. A photo or a quick note will accompany each entry.

Oh this is SCARY!  It’s vulnerable. It comes with accountability. Why am I even doing this? Perhaps as an example. The more we let ourselves experience FFTs or FTs the more we are able to cope with future new situations. Or in the world we are in now. Every. Darn. Day.

At this point I have ideas for new watercolor paintings, new books, new recipes, new video editing skills and more. If you have ANY ideas for New Things for me to try please send me a message.

Next week my YouTube episode will be a completely new style. Join me in a narrative film about my birthday, New Things, photography and ladybugs.

Monique kayaking on Cattail Pond


Why I won’t offer “Front Porch Sessions”

Why I won’t offer “Front Porch Sessions” March 28, 2020.

A week and a half ago I thought “Front Porch Sessions” would be fun. Families gather on their front porch. I drive up and photograph them from safely across the street. 

Then I thought about it deeper. I checked my reaction when I heard photographers across the country and the world were offering them. And I got mad.

Who are we to think we are elite? Yes everyone wants to feel “essential” but where does it stop? If I am out walking and driving around and staying 6 feet apart isn’t that ok? No.

If I as a photographer start doing that then landscape companies, fence repair shops, roofers, painters, and any number of contractors should be able to go about their business as well right?

Here’s why it doesn’t sit well with me:

Driving: Once the governor issued the Stay at Home order for Colorado I finished my last errands. One was to close up my studio space and bring home any equipment I could use for projects at home. On my way home, one block from my house, emergency vehicles were gathered. Fire truck, police, tow truck, ambulance. A fender bender. Car accidents still happen. We are distracted and anxious. Now all these emergency responders and potentially ER hospital beds will be taken.

Desperation: Offering portrait sessions during a time of crisis felt desperate. Am I doing it to be in the news? Publicity? Do I just want to increase my portfolio? Am I in it to make a few dollars? Do I want people to remember me as the nice photographer who took family photos for free? These are all so self serving. 

Leading by Example. This crisis is real. The numbers around the globe prove it. I need to lead by example and stay  home. As much as I love photography it is not essential. Repeat-Non Essential. That’s a bit of a blow to my profession I know. But is it really worth walking or driving all over town when I could be doing my part for the greater good?

I searched my heart and what I considered the deeper reason for Front Porch Sessions. Why was I originally drawn to the idea weeks ago? 

To me it’s all about memorializing this time in our history, in our community, in our family. What did life look like in Spring of 2020? How did we fair during isolation? What did our day to day look like? How did we feel? Like a happy family in our best clothes sitting pretty on the front steps? Maybe sometimes. How about the quiet moments on the couch in the evening. Or everyone gathered around the dining room table for a meal they hadn’t enjoyed as a family in a very long time? What about our pets, our children, our spouses telecommuting? When we look back years from now we will want to remember those times.

You don’t need a professional photographer to show these moments. Take your own family portrait. Prop your phone on some books, set the 10 second timer and get in the photo. Or be watching for moments and quietly record a photo or video. Give your phone or camera to your kids and have them take photos all day. Set your camera in the corner, turn on time laps and forget it’s there for an hour recording. You can document your own life. Heck you can even sit on your front porch in nice clothes and prop your phone on a bush. 

When “normal” life resumes again us professional photographers will be here for you again. To photograph your family in high definition to print and hang on your wall and send to loved ones. 

Until then I will be home. Washing my hands. Snuggling with my family. Holding Zoom meetings. Creating videos. Honing my skills. Reading. Bird watching. 

And wishing all of you health and safety. 

Phone propped on books with toilet paper rolls for self portrait.



Strangest Animal – Tales with Tails

Strangest Animal – Tales with Tails

Winter of 2016 I found myself on a walk-a-bout. On a personal journey from Colorado to Washington state for several weeks of self discovery. Much of my time I spent with my daughter in the tiny town of Port Angeles, Washington.

With the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the North and the Olympic Mountains to the south I sat in the midst of photography paradise. I wandered down to the water to spy on seals & bald eagles. And up into the mountains for snowy Lake Crescent scenes.

But my heart yearned to photograph pets. Within two weeks I had tracked down the local humane society.

Olympic Peninsula Humane Society is located just on the edge of town nestled in lovely northwest trees and meadows. The OPHS has their own little forest with a groomed walking path that all the dogs know by heart. Near the dog building a rock garden and patio serve as a perfect location to pose adventuresome pups. In a separate building the cats enjoy huge suites and the bunnies have taken over the enclosed back patio.

On each of my four visits I had the honor of photographing whichever adoptable animals needed portraits. I posed a pair of pugs on a flat boulder. A regal pyrenees paused on the forest trail for her photos. An elderly cocker spaniel lounged on the patio for her session. We gathered all the Christmas decorations from the entire facility to create a holiday set for a litter of foster puppies. Kitties of all ages enjoyed rolling around on the soft fabric of my portable table top studio. (Yes on my walkabout my photography gear filled half my Subaru so I was well prepared for any photo adventure.) One bunny with a neurological condition managed to sit still for a few images (she was adopted quickly after that!) And one bunny we decided to surround with real carrots and lettuce for a fun studio set-up.

But the strangest animals I have ever photographed were also at the Olympic Peninsula Humane Society. I consider them strange because I had never personally interacted with one and honestly didn’t even know what it was when I looked at it. With the softest fur in the universe, a long bottle brush bushy tail, big round ears, shiny black eyes, teeny feet and cat like whiskers I had met a Chinchilla. Actually a pair of chinchillas.

According to Wikipedia, chinchillas are native to Chili in South America. The chinchilla is named after the Chincha people of the Andes, who once wore its dense, velvet-like fur. Unfortunately by the end of the 19th century, chinchillas had become quite rare after being hunted for their ultra-soft fur.

Somehow chinchillas became exotic pets. But I wouldn’t recommend them! They are very difficult to care for. Again per wikepedia they need dust baths, low stress, strict room temperature regulation, and teeth care among many other needs.

This pair we learned were relatively wild. The previous owners did not handle them and likely did not 100% know how to care for them.

Only one employee at OPHS knew how to handle them. As gently as possible she cradled one at time in her hands for their adoption portraits. Very fast, small, delicate and unpredictable we decided against letting them go on the studio table set. The first one we used a soft pink towel to wrap her in and concentrated on close ups portraits. The second one was a little more comfortable so she simply held him in her hands. While not the ideal poses we managed to create some extremely cute images of these strange rodents.

Volunteering at an animal shelter brings surprises and challenges. I never know before entering who I will encounter. I will definitely never forget those soft, squirmy, exotic chinchillas.

Listen to the narrated version on the Tales with Tails podcast Episode 8. Aired November 26, 2018.

Available on Anchor.fmApple Podcasts and your favorite podcast app.


My Heart Dog Libby – Tales with Tails

My Heart Dog Libby – Tales with Tails

Ft. Collins pet and people photographerA sick little puppy visited the veterinary hospital I managed nearly every day in the spring of 2002. The other two pups in her litter were doing great but she was struggling. This 2 pound poodle would rest in my pocket during her visit all day in the hospital.

Her people were doing everything we recommended and were fully committed to her health. After a couple weeks I started considering approaching the family about transferring her to my care. “I’m at the hospital every day, my golden retriever would love her, my kids would be very gentle and with my employee cost I could continue her care as long as needed.”

These were the rationale I told them and my family. But really she had snuggled her way into my heart.

With a promise to keep them up to date and come to them if she ever needed anything teensy Liberty joined my family.

She had no less than 21 nick names including WooWoo, Small Dog, Lib a Dib & LouLou.

Although her medical issue had challenges her entire life she kept her funl-oving, bouncy, silly character. Camping trips she bravely tromped through the forest with our goldie earning the title of Jungle Dog. Favorite crowd pleaser trick was to sneeze on command. She learned all five kids names and would run to their bedroom to wake them up. “Libby, go wake up Crystal!” would send her jetting all the way down the hall to scratch on Crystal’s door until she let her in.

Being one of the kids she of course tried to be a rebel. At 5 pounds full grown she had to wear a cat collar with a little bell. The bell helped everyone know she was near so we didn’t accidentally run into her. But she learned how to walk extra slow so the bell wouldn’t sound and she could sneak a piece of forbidden people food off the floor.

And the Christmas she became so frantically excited to greet someone at the door that she jumped out of Amber’s arms, fell on the concrete garage floor and broke her front right leg. Thump, thump, thump she drug that cast through the house and up and down the stairs for weeks. 40 days of Pacific Northwest rain required we add a ziplock sandwich bag to her cast every time she need to go outside. With her medical condition she would often struggle to “go number two” and would end up walking on her two front feet to get in the right position. (Circus Dog.) Extra tough with a cast but she managed!

A friend to all big and small she loved our golden retriever Gypsy, the old cavalier Papy who joined our family as a senior, our kitty Kay (twice at big as her!), all our kids, all their friends and anyone who would pay attention to her.


But I was her favorite. She and I had a bond that in animal loving circles we call a “heart dog”. Many times in her final years I would defiantly exclaim “My plan is for Libby to live forever and no one can tell me different.” I snuck her into the no-dogs-allowed grocery stores. She modeled for me with tasty Tillamook cheese as payment. She became an internet star in the #PetLoversTribe livestreaming with me 5 days a week on Periscope. When I took a cross country road trip I printed her photo on a stick as Flat Libby so she could tag along virtually. All five pounds of her warmth kept me cozy snuggled on the couch on sick days.

In February 2016 she stopped eating. With her lifelong medical issues this wasn’t completely out of the ordinary. But I could tell a difference. Blood test at the vet had them calling me at 7:00 am the next morning to rush her in for all day hospitalization. With fluids, meds and extra tasty food we took her home that night. By the next afternoon we had her in for an ultrasound. She had dropped to 4 pounds. By the next day we could see her light fading and scheduled her last veterinary appointment for the next afternoon. I held her in my arms while she took her last breath surrounded by a caring vet staff and my little family.

Nearly every day for the last two and a half years I have thought of my little WooWoo. My sister had a sign made with a quote of mine after Libby died: “I think a lot of people say ‘they leave a hole in your heart’ & I don’t think I agree with that. I think my heart is overflowing, it’s just my lap that’s empty.”

Sometime in the next year I hope to add another Small Dog to my home. While there is no way a new dog will fill the giant footsteps left by the tiniest of souls I feel like I can finally open my heart and lap again.

The world and my home needs #MoreWoos.









Listen to the narrated version on the Tales with Tails podcast Episode 1. Aired October 11, 2018.

Available on, Apple Podcasts and your favorite podcast app.



Podcast Premier

Tales with Tails podcast coming soon!

Do all of your tales have tails? Mine too! We all enjoy a funny story, an uplifting account or a sweet childhood memory involving animals. That’s what I will be sharing on the podcast. As a lifelong animal lover like you and as a professional pet and people photographer you can imagine I have many tales to tell!  Every week I will be premiering an episode that I narrate or a special guest will join me to share their tale.

Next time you are out walking the dog, huffing and puffing on the treadmill, or driving to the pet boutique pop in your earbuds and give a listen, subscribe and review. Listen on, on Apple Podcast, or on your favorite podcast app!

This podcasts goes along with the Tales with Tails facebook group at Silver Paw Studio so be sure to join me there too. 


Furtographer Files

New design for your weekly Pack Bulletin and Facebook Live Show: The Furtographer Files!

Each Wednesday morning you will receive a brief email bulletin with the following 3 segements that I will also discuss more in depth on Facebook Live at 9:00 am mst Fridays.

Three Fun Filled Segments for your entertainment, education and involvement each week:

1. Tip of the Week. Educational insight that I love to share. Cell phone photography tips, working with shelters, post processing and more in bite sized servings.

2. Pets of the Week. Featuring a client pet/family of the week AND an adoptable pet of the week. Maybe you will be featured or find your next furbaby!

3. Events & Projects. Heads up about local fun animal related events like pet expos, open houses, classes and more. Also spotlight on cool projects I am working on. Sometimes I will even ask for your help!

Monthly Interview, Once a month we will chat with a pet professional. Groomers, trainers, behaviorists and more. These interviews will help you prepare for a portrait session, give you behind the scenes workings of pet businesses, share tips about services and causes you may not know about, and more. If you would like to be interviewed or you have someone you would like me to interview, please send me email and let me know.

Be sure you are part of The Pack here!




Larimer Humane Society Demolition

This month the old shelter came tumbling down. Demolition crews were on-site for 2 weeks at the former Larimer Humane Society. The demo is a bitter-sweet moment for long time supporters of LHS. Many, many memories were born in that building over the years. New families were formed, pets were reunited with their people, Critter Camps were enjoyed, medical needs were met, and animal well being was patrolled from this one story concrete building. Did you adopt a pet at the old site? Did your kids attend camp? Were you reunited? I would love to hear the story!


Colorado Mountain Mushers

Leadville, Colorado hosts the Colorado Mountain Mushers every year for the Mount Massive big race. Photographing this event is one of the highlights of life in Colorado. Tromping in the snow, watching happy pups, amazing mountain views, and a fun group of people make a fun winter weekend. The last day I even had the privilege of taking a ride on the sled of an 8 dog team. We flew around one corner and within the blink of an eye me and my camera were planted face first in a snow bank! What an exciting moment, I felt like it was a complete sled dog experience to return to the finish line covered in snow with a huge smile on my face. Thank you everyone for inviting me to this event!


Coffee & Canvas’

Silver Paw Studio Display

Silver Paw Studio Display

Have you seen cute animal canvas prints at a local business? Hey that could be a display from Silver Paw Studio!

Several coffee shops and business have graciously offered their wall spaces as a gallery space for canvas prints from my studio.

At the time of publication you can find displays at 13 locations in Fort Collins and Loveland, Colorado. From pet boutiques to coffee shops to groomers to veterinary hospitals.

Have you seen a display? Super! Any portrait session booked and completed who mentions where they saw my display will receive a gift certificate back to that business!

I would mention the businesses but want to hear from you. Let’s go on a scavenger hunt! Tag Silver Paw Studio in a selfie on Facebook or Instagram at the business with my display and get an extra bonus.

Can you find all 13 locations?

Would you like to display cute animals at your business? Do you have an idea for a display location? I would love to hear about it! Coffee on me-call me at 970-286-3198.