As a wedding and portrait photographer, I strive to create images that tell the story of your life with beauty and grace, respect and imagination. Foregoing forced smiles and stiff poses, I embrace natural smiles and expressions in order to create images that have a unique freshness and vitality and a heartfelt and emotional authenticity.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

SPeCiAl Dog

Joey Stanley has a new job. Although he has fully enjoyed the good life of a kept dog, now it's time for him to go to work as the new mascot for the Richmond SPCA. And with such an important title, it became necessary for Joey to get some new headshots. Maybe even a new portfolio. Melissa, Joey's mom, asked if I was interested. Would I do it?

Yes. Unequivocally yes.

I consider myself one of the lucky ones. One of those lucky human beings that is able to look into an animal's eyes and know that their love is important; more exists than what we see.

Melissa is another one of the lucky ones. Eleven years ago, she was on call as a surgery tech at Virginia Tech's vet school when Daisy, a one-year old lab, came in at 3 am for a c-section. Melissa remembers calling her dad at 4 am for $350 because she was a starving student and had fallen in love with a newborn puppy.

Joey lives a charmed life. When he was young, he hung around the vet school where he was born, cheering up the animals recuperating there. He grew up munching on carrots with guinea pigs and chinchillas, watching them play ring-around-the-rosy through his legs. He goes for hikes, swims in Virginia's cool mountain lakes, and takes long car rides in Melissa's convertible for no reason other than to smell the wind. He visits Chesapeake Bay to swim and play with the fish and crabs his grandpa catches. And he loves, loves, loves the Doggie Sundae at Bruster's Real Ice Cream.


Joey, also, is one of the lucky ones. Several years ago, they discovered he had skin cancer. They found 8 melanomas that had to be surgically removed. After an uncomfortable recuperation, Joey recovered fully and was back to his normal doggy self. Then, he started to have unexplained nosebleeds and extreme sneezing attacks that forcefully bounced his nose off the floor. The tears that rolled down his cheeks after his violent sneezes intermingled with Melissa's. He lost interest in his favorite things (swimming) and just wanted to sleep all day; soon after, he was diagnosed with Squamous Cell Carcinoma in his nose. Thanks to Melissa and her dream team of veterinarians, Joey is now back to swimming and smelling the world again from the back of a convertible. He no longer has a wet, rubbery nose, but he still lives up to Melissa's pet name for him: Handsome. She reminds him of his nickname daily. In case he doubts.

At the age of 11, Joey is in remission and is a 2-time cancer survivor. He's kind of a big deal.

And, now he's employed. His primary job responsibility as the SPCA's mascot is to remind us all of SPCA's guiding principle: Every life is precious. Regardless of pedigree, illness, disability or the size of one's nose, all animals have endless amounts of love to give, and they deserve all that love right back.

Other than her immediate family members, Joey earns the title of Melissa's longest committed relationship. Do you think she loves him?

Mmmm - pretty sure.

Do you think he loves her?

Yes. Unequivocally yes.


  1. Anonymous10/19/2009

    My baby. I love him so much. You just made me cry. I don't know what my life would have been like without him these past 11 years. Thank you Kaycee. Your pictures and your blog touch my heart deeply. - Melissa

  2. Tamsen Kingry10/19/2009

    We are so fortunate to have Joey as our 2009-2010 mascot. He is a very special dog with a most inspiring story. These photos are wonderful. We look forward to his upcoming year of service helping thousands of homeless pets in the care of the Richmond SPCA. We have a great friend in Joey.

  3. Jason Smith10/20/2009

    That brought a tear to my eye... Unconditional love is amazing.

  4. Robin Starr10/20/2009

    This is deeply touching. We are so proud to have Joey to be our mascot for the coming year. His story of devotion, courage and love between animal and person is such a crucial message for us to send to others. I am so thrilled that he will help us send that wonderful message to so many people in our community in the coming year. Thank you so much for this beautiful tribute to him and to Melissa.

  5. Lisa Mecham4/13/2010

    Tears are streaming down my face .. Your pictures and your story are both beautiful beyond words .. How lucky Joey and Melissa are to have found each other .. If people only knew how loving animals are there would never be another abused or abandoned animal.

  6. Connie Brooks11/18/2010

    This is my all-time favorite rendition of Joey and Melissa's "story," Kaycee. THANK YOU! for doing this for them.......... :)