This is Yonah, a Boykin Spaniel. A what? What's a Boykin? I know, I hadn't heard of (or seen) the breed either.
When his owner answered my model call, I had the same reaction.
Dog Photography | A Little Boykin Spaniel History
So, I looked it up and found that they were originally bred for hunting ducks and turkeys in South Carolina [source].
Hunters on the Wateree River needed a small, agile dog to travel with them on boats and be able to hunt on land and water. A Mr. Boykin crossbred different dogs which resulted in the Boykin Spaniel.
Ancestors of the breed are reported to be: the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Springer Spaniel, Cocker Spaniel, and the American Water Spaniel.
There you have it. So, I knew I was going to meet a spaniel but I had no idea that his owners have trained him to actually BE a duck HUNTER (or retriever, rather).
Dog Photography | The Session
Before the session, the only thing that Yonah's owner told me was that he LOVES the water so I knew that I wanted to photograph him in his element. There is a big creek that runs near my house. It is very peaceful and there usually aren't very many people there which makes it a perfect setting for a dog session.
When they arrived, she said that her husband had brought some duck decoys and his waders (big wellington/rain boots) and wondered if I would like to photograph Yonah going after the "ducks".
As I am not a hunter myself and haven't been exposed to that lifestyle, I didn't know what that meant exactly but of course I said YES!!
[I did ask for a couple of portraits too but the action and documentary nature lit up my photojournalistic heart]
The next thing I knew, her husband was carrying a HUGE duffel bag down the sandy shore and started to set up the ducks in the water.
They gave me a quick tutorial and then it was action time. Yonah sat by his "dad's" side on the shore and keenly watched, waited, and listened for his name.
The second his dad said, "YONAH", off he flew into the water with a splash! It was hard to see him at times as he bounded through the water toward the duck decoy. He had to navigate through the "alive" ducks to find the "dead" one (a bit gruesome, sorry).
It was SO COOL to witness and document. Yonah seemed like he really enjoyed it (which I am thankful for because we did it a number of times).
His owners said that he hadn't had much practice in the water recently so he was a bit rusty. They could have fooled me! He was so focused and determined to get that decoy. He brought it straight back and dropped it in no time!
He was absolutely the star of the show and I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to photograph it.
It got me thinking...shall I offer dog ACTION sessions! What do you think?!
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