yamnuska calendar cover

I wasn’t as optimistic about 2021 as most people were. I read all the memes being shared by my friends and family on social media wishing 2020 good riddance. They had high hopes that an end to the pandemic was near, and that a return to normalcy was on the horizon.

Personally, I felt more pessimistic and feared that 2021 would bring about more of the same uncertainty and turmoil that we’d become somewhat accustomed to in 2020. If I’m honest, I had a sense of impending doom that it would actually be much worse.

When January finally rolled around I felt myself mentally starting to go downhill – fast. My pet photography business, BrindleBerry Acres, was in a rough spot and I was feeling very helpless about all the struggle I saw happening around me.

As a person with a history of anxiety and depression, I knew where this was going – to a place I’d been before, and a place that I most certainly didn’t want to go to again. I was determined that if I was going to focus so intensely on something, that it was going to be something good.

But what could I do?

Maxwell Bassett Hound

I most certainly had nothing monetary to give. I, like many other entrepreneurs with non-essential businesses, was struggling to make ends meet. I had nothing to offer. Or so I thought…

I grabbed a pen and paper (yes, I’m old school like that) and I started to brainstorm.

I asked myself, “What DO I have to give?”.

As the owner of two pet food stores in Calgary, I had pet industry connections. As an accredited canine portrait photographer and certified professional photographer, I had some photography skills. I’d invested in a brand new Sony mirrorless camera right before things went sideways, so I had that. And, I also had some mad marketing skills…

Poppy Boxer Dog

I finally decided on hosting a dog calendar contest with all proceeds going to the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary. They’d recently rescued 10 wolfdogs and 3 sled dogs from a hoarding situation.

The animals were all at risk for euthanasia if Yamnuska couldn’t raise the necessary funds to build them specialized enclosures to live out the rest of their lives in at the sanctuary.

Luckily, the 3 sled dogs found forever homes. But the wolfdogs (part domestic dog, part wolf) had no place in the world. High-content wolfdogs don’t make good pets, but they can’t survive in the wild either. The sanctuary, or euthansia, were really their only two options.

I immediately put everything I had into the contest. I set a goal to raise $20,000 over an 8 week period. This was just under half of the amount required to build one enclosure.

I started to encourage local dog owners to enter their dogs into the competition. Their mission was to get friends and family to vote on their dog’s photo. Each vote cost a donation of $1.

The contestant with the most votes would win the coveted calendar cover, and the 12 runners up would each get a month in the calendar along with a host of other generous prizes along the way donated by local businesses. The top 13 dogs would all be photographed professionally for the calendar by yours truly.

Kade Pit Bull Cane Corso

Well, a few people called me crazy. Some were downright discouraging. However, despite the naysayers the contest took off in a big way!

In fact, we reached our $20,000 goal 19 days before the end of the contest! I raised the goal to $30,000 and finished the contest with a heated competition, and a whopping $36,597 raised for the cause!

Yamnuska even dedicated an enclosure to myself and my followers who I affectionately call, ”The BrindleBerry Bunch”.

Words cannot describe the immense amount of pride I felt when I saw that final number. Sometimes when I say it out loud, I laugh a little – in that uncomfortable-laugh kinda way. It’s still surreal to me.

I used this opportunity to stretch out of my comfort zone and to try some new photography techniques I’ve been dying to try, but don’t get the opportunity to practise in my paid work.

Rudi Chihuahua

First and foremost I’ve learned how to use that new beast of a camera and all of its incredible tracking modes! I also purchased a wide angle lens and I made it a goal to include more landscapes in my dog photography both for the calendar, and going forward.

Also on the list of goals was to incorporate more off-camera flash, which I’m happy to say that I did successfully. And, I even tried my hand at photographing a dog in the Calgary skyline using the Brenizer Method, and although it was OKAY, I need to keep practicing that one.

I entered a handful of the resulting calendar images into competition this year, and I look forward to raising even more funds for Yamnuska through calendar sales.

Denver Yellow Lab

With things opening up in Canada, the “tail” end of 2021 looks bright! (See what I did there?)

I have a contest, 3 sled dogs, and 10 wolfdogs to thank for getting me through an unprecedented “ruff” patch! (Somebody stop me!)

If you’d like to contribute to this fundraiser, please visit one of the following locations and grab a calendar or two! They’ll make a great Christmas gift and all proceeds go to the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary!

Holly Montgomery, CPP

Holly is an award-winning, certified and accredited dog photographer based in Calgary, Alberta. She is best known for her ability to create stunning images that capture a pup’s personality in a candid, respectful way. Additionally, as a pet food store owner (x2) she’s dedicated her career to helping pet parents understand and care for dogs of all ages and dispositions.