When Pete Thorne’s grandmother turned 100, the Toronto-based photographer took a trip to Halifax to take pictures at her birthday party. That event inspired him to begin looking more closely at older subjects and Thorne decided to focus specifically on spotlighting older dogs in a photography series titled “Old Faithful.”
“Old dogs are generally overlooked by photographers in favor of cute puppies,” says Thorne, who brought in a friend’s senior dog named Sprout to test a few shots. Thorne photographed Sprout on a gray seamless backdrop. After seeing the results, the photographer put up a few posters asking for senior dog models and was overwhelmed with responses from enthusiastic pet owners.
Thorne took the photos in his home studio and had to work with both pet parents and dogs to get the perfect shot. “A lot of these old doggies are blind or deaf, possibly both,” says Thorne. “I found that the trick is to direct the owner; the dog will follow. It can be quite a comical scene.”
Because older dogs tend to tire more easily than their younger counterparts, Thorne kept the sessions short to avoid stress and exhaustion. Thorne also asked the pet parents to submit a testimony and biography about each dog so that he could ultimately decide which photograph to choose for the series.
“The testimonials—which are often quite touching and humorous—have inadvertently become a big part of the project,” says Thorne. “A lot of the stories involve rescuing these dogs from pet mills, foreign countries and from threats of being put down.”
Thorne’s photographs perfectly capture the endearing and lovable characteristics of our aging canine companions. While these dogs may suffer from impaired vision, physical deformities, health problems, and bad teeth, they represent the unique bond and undying loyalty between people and their pets.
“To be honest, I was a little naïve coming into the project. I thought I would simply photograph some old dogs, choose the ones that look like caricatures of old guys and gals, and that would be it,” Thorne says. “It wasn’t until I started hearing about dogs that I had photographed passing away and having their owners notify me about their loss, that I realized just how significant and close people become with their pets.”
Thorne hopes to turn the Old Faithful series into a gallery show and potentially a book. He is still in the process of taking pictures of senior pets for the collection. The photographer says that the project has opened his eyes to the many joys of senior dog ownership.
“I guess I understand why people would want a younger dog—they get more time together, and it’s most likely less expensive in terms of health care,” says Thorne. “But I think it’s really noble of these owners who have rescued or adopted older dogs—to finally give them the affection and care that they deserve.”
Image via Pete Thorne