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Alyssa & Her Fuzzy Best Friend Wesley at Montpelier Mansion in Laurel, Maryland

A woman petting her dog in the grass at Montpelier Mansion.

If you’ve ever met me you’ll know that my love for dogs borders on irrational. I’m the guy who likes teaching the neighborhood dogs to spin on command when their people aren’t looking, and who started a local dog group on Nextdoor to connect with my neighbors who also have a screw or two loose. It was through this group that I met Alyssa, a fellow dog enthusiast, and her canine companion, Wesley.

Alyssa and I crossed paths a couple of years ago when I began a program offering free portraits of senior dogs in our neighborhood. I met her during the last year of her beloved dog Addie’s life. The bond Alyssa shared with Addie was profound, and when Addie passed, Alyssa was naturally devastated. But as any dog lover will tell you, as tragic as it feels, our dogs have usually picked out their successor for us. And so, enter Wesley.

When Alyssa first brought Wesley home, he was a spindly scaffold of legs, ears, and energy. Alyssa purchased a pet session for Wesley, using it as motivation to stick with him through his awkward and defiant adolescent stage of puppyhood. Through many conversations with Alyssa, I heard all the common stories of sweet moments of affection and head-spinning stubbornness. But it’s these stories that actually make our dogs into our best friends. The hard work, discipline, and practice pays off and becomes the foundation of a friendship that lasts their whole lives. Maybe not entirely unrelated to Stockholm syndrome, but I digress.

The day finally came when Alyssa could see how far Wesley had come in his training and in their relationship. With a somewhat spontaneous relocation to Alaska on the horizon, she was ready to get Wesley in front of the camera. We chose Montpelier Mansion in Laurel as our location. Not only was it geographically convenient for Alyssa, but it was also a perfect spot for portraits that had been flying under my radar for almost two decades.

We arrived on a temperate evening, with perfectly scattered clouds and a gorgeous pink hue from the near-setting sun. We wandered around the old gear house and got acquainted with the session. We lured Wesley around the perimeter of the garden, nose-to-the-ground, sniffing out treats we’d hidden for him to create some great photo opportunities.

At one point, a miscalculation led to a cops and robbers moment as Wesley discovered that the fenced-in area Alyssa thought was containing him was, in fact, no match for his nimble haunches. Wesley, not a flight-risk per se, but a playful fellow, was off —almost literally— to the races. Once Alyssa finally managed to wrangle Wesley back onto a leash, it was agreed this Wiley character cannot be trusted, and so we moved him onto a long 50-foot lead as we continued the session around the property.

We finished up our session as the sun was finally starting to fade, Wesley tired out, and Alyssa frazzled but happy to have taken the time to have these photos made. As we were starting to leave, I took a few minutes to capture some environmental shots of the location, recognizing that I absolutely wanted to add this spot to our Locations Directory.

In the end, the session was a testament to the enduring bond between Alyssa and Wesley, a bond forged through shared experiences, mutual understanding, and unconditional love, and probably quite a few swear words uttered under the breath. It was a bond that was beautifully captured in the serene and historic setting of Montpelier Mansion. And as the sun set on our session, I couldn’t help but feel grateful for the opportunity to capture these moments, to tell these stories, and to share in the love between Alyssa and Wesley.