Life With a Camera-Shy Dog

camera shy dog
Image Source: Liz Pekler

My dog doesn’t like posing for pictures. I’m not quite sure how she could be aware that a camera is pointed at her since she’s pretty old (at least to my knowledge) and therefore nearly blind. Somehow, whenever I try to take a decent photo of her, she just shuts me down by looking away, turning tail, or giving me major doggy side-eye as if to say, “No pictures, please.”

We found our little camera-shy dog while on a family trip to the Philippines a few years back. She was dirty and scared, wandering around at night on a semi-busy street. My brother and I were sitting in the backseat of a cab—on our way home after a day of exploring Manila—when we spotted her.

The cab almost ran over her, but luckily, the driver hit the brakes in the nick of time. My brother immediately hopped out of the car, scooped her up (no easy feat, as she was struggling quite a bit), and brought her into the cab with us. Since it was the middle of the night, we agreed to just take her home.

This little dog, with her mottled white fur and lopsided gait, was irresistibly adorable despite her disheveled and awkward appearance. But we couldn’t pet or cuddle her. She was deathly terrified of us. She allowed us just close enough to fill her bowls with food and water but would squirm, cower, or run away when we tried to get closer. Like most stray dogs, she had probably never experienced love and affection, which led to her developing an intense fear and distrust of people. It was heartbreaking to imagine the kind of abuse she must have suffered to be so afraid of human contact.

My brother, being a fan of stoner comedies, decided to name her Silent Bob after Kevin Smith’s character from “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.” I know, kind of a strange name for a female dog—but my brother had no idea that she was a girl, and he had not bothered to check. He said he chose the name because she was so quiet. She never barked or made any kind of noise.

It took her a very, very long time to warm up to us. For the longest time, she refused to be touched. Nonetheless, we decided to keep her and took steps to acquire all the necessary paperwork to take her out of the Philippines and bring her home with us.

By the time we had returned stateside, she was looking much healthier. But she still hadn’t warmed up to us. It took almost six months of winning her over before she finally allowed us to even pet her. I felt extremely triumphant when she finally let me rub her belly, and even more triumphant when she started letting other people outside of the family pet her as well.

Once we had broken that barrier, Silent Bob (or Poopy, as I like to call her) revealed herself to be the calmest, sweetest, and most affectionate dog I have ever had. She also revealed herself to be quite the noisy barker when she was in protective mode, which was ironic given the name my brother had initially chosen for her.

Finally willing to be cuddled and cradled, she became more integrated into our everyday routines. We were finally able to play with her, take her to places, and do all sorts of fun stuff with her. For the first time since she came into our lives, Poopy seemed perfectly healthy, happy, and content.

And like all new dog owners, I wanted to document these precious, fleeting moments by taking lots of pictures of her.

But for some reason, Poopy truly dislikes the camera—any camera. Whether it’s a digital camera, a DSLR camera, or even an iPhone, she will definitely run away from it. Not out of fear, but more out of irritation. She just wasn’t having it.

It was frustrating. Because she refused to participate, all the photos I had of her were terrible.

I went online to find tips and tricks that would help me take better photos of my dog. I found this article on mastering dog photography (written from a dog’s point of view, which I thought was pretty cool) and got some helpful tips, but since my dog was still iffy about anything with a lens in it, I still had a hard time getting her to actually sit still or look at the camera. I then found another article on how to train your camera-shy dog to like the camera, but since I’ve never really had much patience for dog training (Poopy has always been gentle and well-behaved, even without much training) of any kind, I never got her to feel truly comfortable with the camera.

I see other people’s selfies with their dogs, and all of them look adorable. Whenever I try to take selfies with mine, all anyone would see is the side of her face (because she keeps turning her head away). I even entertained the idea that maybe it was the proximity of the camera that turned her off. But surprisingly, even in big group photos where the camera is about eight feet away, she still won’t look into the camera. In all our family photos, you’d find her looking elsewhere and staring off into space.

People who don’t know me that well are often surprised to find out that I have a dog. This is because they probably expect all dog owners to have pet-saturated social media accounts, and mine is not. After nearly seven years with my camera-shy dog, I still only have a handful of decent pictures of her—and a whole bunch of crappy ones where she’s looking away, running away, or simply a blur.

But that’s totally fine. Yes, I don’t have a lot of great, Instagram-worthy pictures of my dog, but I’ve decided that I don’t mind. What matters is that my dog is happy. That my dog feels loved.

And so far, that seems to be the case.

Besides, every once in a while, she takes pity on me and actually looks straight into the camera to give me her best smile:

camera shy dog
Image Source: Liz Pekler

Pretty fierce, right?

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