Dog’s Life LLC (And Cat’s Too!)


     Dog’s Life LLC (And Cats Too!) is a boarding, daycare and grooming business located in Goodlettesville, TN. The brainchild of owner/operator Diane Towson (pictured above), Dog’s Life LLC opened in May of this year and has been steadily building their client base ever since. That’s not surprising once you get a tour of the facility and, of course, once you meet Diane.

     I found out about Diane from a friend. We were talking one night after dinner and I told her I was thinking about doing some blog posts on local businesses. She told me I needed to check out this grooming business a friend of hers owned. I found them online and, after a little research, I decided to just show up one day and see things for myself.

     I arrived on a gorgeous fall day in Tennessee. A bit warm in the sunshine but the breeze let you know that wouldn’t last much longer. The gravel driveway pops and crunches as it leads up to the main building. A long wooden fence runs next to most of the drive, one side of a large outdoor play area. The trees had lost most of their leaves save a few stragglers.

     The first thing I noticed was how calming the environment was. When you reach the end of the driveway you’re surrounded on almost all sides by trees. I guess I was expecting a more industrial park feel, but I was wrong. The vibe they’ve created is more like visiting friends in the country, complete with a park bench in the front if you’d like to sit and talk a while.

     I opened the door and entered the front desk/receiving area and there was Diane sitting behind the counter. I introduced myself, explained why I was there and we talked a while about animals and their personalities. She talked about subtle signs in the behavior of dogs and what they meant, and how to act around them to establish the proper relationship. She spoke of small indications of stress to look for and how to make them feel more comfortable. It didn’t take long to realize that all my collected knowledge of dogs could easily be stored in her little finger.

     Diane gave me a tour of the place and described all the work they had done. There are specially made units to accommodate single dogs or families of dogs. She showed me how the units are designed in a way that no sharp or rough edges are able to come in contact with the animals. We went through the spacious grooming area and the lounge.

     Through the back door is an outdoor play area. I took the photo above at the top of the steps that lead down to the back yard. You can see the view from back there. It’s not as big as the play yard in the front, but it has its own charm about it.

     The front play area is huge with lots of room to run around. The two soft-backed lawn chairs sitting out let me know that Diane and her crew don’t just put the dogs in the yard and go on to other things, they’re with them and interacting.

     It was remarkable how clean this place was. I know caring and grooming for animals can be a messy business, but that doesn’t stop Diane from running a clean ship. This was a sanitary and safe environment and I must reiterate that I showed up unannounced.

     As much as the facilities impressed me, it was the knowledge and attention to detail that Diane possesses that impressed me more. While we were talking, she mentioned how she had written an email, in the voice of a dog she was boarding, describing what went on that day to the owner. She even sent pictures of them playing that day.

     Little things like that go a long way in my opinion, and I know my dog owning friends would eat that up. It speaks to the fact that Diane loves animals and genuinely understands the relationships with their owners. She is good at what she does because she loves what she does.

     If you’d like to hear what other people are saying about Dog’s Life, or to see tons of pictures of their clients, check out their Facebook Fan Page.


     Meet Aja. She’s a make-up artist, a hair stylist and part of a large team of individuals that came together in late September to hold a practice Help-Portrait event. She was reluctant to get in front of the camera at first, but I’m glad she did. I’m not above begging to get a great shot.

     What is Help-Portrait? Help-Portrait is a global movement of photographers using their time, gear and expertise to give back to those in need. The basic premise is finding someone in need, giving them some pampering, taking their portrait and then giving it to them. All at no charge.

     I first heard of Help-Portrait earlier this year. My friend Barry had been talking about this event where photographers get together to serve their community by offering portrait services to those in need. The idea sounded nice but I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t think about it very much further than that. He would mention it again a couple months later and I would agree that it sounded like a good idea and then I would forget about it.

     One day he sent me an email that had a link to the official Help-Portrait website. I decided to have a look and see what this whole thing was about. I watched a three and a half minute video of organizers and participants talking about what they were doing and how it affected them. I swear I tried my hardest not to cry but it didn’t work. It was just too moving and I knew right then that I wanted to be a part of this thing.

     Barry and I talked and we decided to do sort of a dry run, a practice test to see what kind of issues we’d run into logistically. We set a date of September 24th and got busy. There was a lot of planning involved to make this little event happen, but there was also an abundance of help from some amazing people. It was incredible to watch everyone working together to pull this off. Everything went smoother than could have been imagined.

     The best part of the whole day was seeing the look on peoples faces when they saw their photograph on the back of the camera. These huge Cheshire Cat grins would grow so big they couldn’t hide them. That was the real payoff, the reason we were there. To make someone smile, to help them feel better about themselves, to try and share a little hope with others.

     It was an emotional day. You see, ever since I found my passion in using a camera, I have been amazed at the level of joy it gives me. It provides me with a form of expression that I don’t find anywhere else. When I found my home behind the lens, I felt a sense of place and immediately knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life taking photographs. It has benefitted all other aspects of my life.

     My focus has been on how I could use my camera to make my life better. I left that day with the new understanding that the passion I have for photography is expressed in it’s truest form when I use it to better the life of others.

     There’s a subtle osmosis that occurs when you honestly try and spread a bit of hope to someone who needs it. Just in putting forth the effort, you gain a little yourself.

     Help-Portrait day is December 4th, 2010. If you’d like to be involved, check out the official Help-Portrait website. You don’t have to be a photographer. You don’t have to know how to use Photoshop. You just have to be there.


The Fiery Gizzard

     Last Friday, I went on a hiking trip to the South Cumberland Recreation Area. The goal was to capture some of the fall foliage before it was gone and to get a little exercise. My friend Barry had been talking about how beautiful the pictures he had seen of the area were, so we set a date and headed out with another friend of ours.

     The trail we hiked started at the north end of the Fiery Gizzard, up to Raven Point, then looped back along the plateau to where we began. We set off from the trailhead and the grandeur of this place is evident right from the beginning. The descent into the gorge starts immediately. It was a chilly morning and the temperature dropped quickly the further down we went. It was a good motivator to get the blood flowing and make some headway. 

     There was just so much to take in. There is a stream running along side most of the trail. It was mostly a trickle due to the dry weather we’ve had, but the waterline on the rocks showed at some points it would be about twenty feet across at times. The trees are thick, with much of the trail being covered by a web of roots that are hard as rock. 

     And, of course, there’s the rocks. Everywhere.

     Huge rockslides are everywhere in the Fiery Gizzard trail. I’m guessing that’s where the name came from. The Devil’s gall bladder might have been more appropriate. It’s an amazing sight to behold. The landscape is just striped with them. These aren’t Disney rocks all carefully and securely placed, many of them move when you step on them. If you’re thinking of going, make sure you’ve got some good boots. Wearing tennis shoes is asking for an ankle injury, and that’s not good in a place where no vehicles can get to you. 

     It is a completely different world down there. The hike was rough, the scenery was incredible, and I was reminded again how small I am in the universe. There is just something remarkably humbling about being immersed in nature like that. I spent a lot of the day thinking about when I was younger and got out into nature more often, and the people I went there with. Some of them I haven’t seen in a very long time and some of them are just gone. 

     The still of the forest brings back lots of memories. There’s no click or buzz or hum to  distract the mind from opening up places that have gone unnoticed amongst the noise. Places that are always there and always will be. The purity of their makeup doesn’t allow them to compete for attention. Instead, the environment must be just right, and I must be quiet and ready for them to return. Like morning light filtering through the trees, they slowly grow brighter, and the path I need to be on is clearer.