Twelve adorable senior dog portraits from Toronto photographer Pete Thorne

Twelve adorable senior dog portraits from Toronto photographer Pete Thorne

Pete Thorne’s subjects have white eyebrows and grey muzzles. Brown, missing or chipped teeth. Foggy eyes that look like glass marbles. The Toronto photographer started shooting elderly dogs around the city two years ago, inspired by portraits he took of his grandmother’s ridged and wrinkled face on her 100th birthday. After the first batch of images went viral, he travelled coast to coast to shoot as many breeds as he could find. The result is Old Faithful: Dogs of a Certain Age, a book of vivid portraits that prove golden-ager canines can be beautiful despite their spots and scars. Here, Thorne talks about 12 dogs featured in the book.

(Image: Pete Thorne) (Image: Pete Thorne)
 

Elmo
Staffordshire bull terrier, 15
“Before this project, I had never photographed any animals before. The first dog I photographed was Elmo, and he happened to have a bad reputation. At the shoot, I was sitting on the ground, eye level with Elmo, and big lights were about to fire straight into his eyes. His brother was leaning on my shoulder, breathing down my neck, and I just thought, ‘If there’s any excuse for a dog to get upset with me, this would be the occasion.’ But I started shooting and Elmo had a blast. He had what looked like a big smile on his face the whole time.”

(Image: Pete Thorne) (Image: Pete Thorne)
 

Emmy
Wolfhound mix, 14
It was so difficult to choose what dogs would make it into the book because I shot more than 300 of them. It feels wrong to have a favourite, but my original old faithfuls—the first 20 or so that I cut my teeth on—were compelling enough to get a lot of people’s attention and make this book a reality. Emmy was one of them. I shot her at the studio in my second-floor apartment in Little Italy. When she arrived, she got really excited and ended up pooping in my roommate’s shoe. That was a funny icebreaker. I have lots of shots of Emmy—not because she was difficult to photograph, but because every time I shot her she would have a completely different expression on her face. It was the first time I started seeing all the possibilities you can get out of a dog.”

(Image: Pete Thorne) (Image: Pete Thorne)
 

Hazel
Pug, 16
“When I’m asked which dog’s story sticks out most in my head, I usually talk about Hazel. When she was first rescued, her eyes were infected and she couldn’t produce tears. Her eyes had to be surgically removed. The vet found five different microchips inside her body from being passed around from puppy mill to puppy mill. However, right after surgery, she bounced back and had twice the amount of energy. Her owners ended up renaming her Hazel, after Hazel McCallion, because they thought she was a tough old girl.”

Old-Faithful-Jackson (Image: Pete Thorne)
 

Jackson
Labrador-Rottweiler mix, 12½
“Jackson is our cover model. In his portrait, he’s staring right back at you. There’s something so symmetrical about his face. He’s got the classic white eyebrows and white muzzle. He looks intense without being serious. You can imagine that if you’re the dog’s owner, that’s the kind of attention that he would pour on you all the time. When his owners, who live in Toronto, found out he was on the cover of the book, they were over the moon.”

(Image: Pete Thorne) (Image: Pete Thorne)
 

Colonel Sanders
Chinese crested dog, 11
“Colonel Sanders is one of my favourites. He has been treated like a rock star his whole life and travelled all over the place. If his owner couldn’t travel with him, she’d sneak him in anyway. Every time I see him, he’s rocking some new sweater that his mom knit for him, usually in some crazy, gaudy, neon colour. When this project first went viral, a Portland alt-weekly put him on the cover of their Halloween issue.”

Old-Faithful-Buddy (Image: Pete Thorne)
 

Buddy
Dachshund, 18
“Buddy was actually the inspiration for his owners’ company, Buddy Belts, which makes harnesses for dogs. They found that regular collars stressed him out, so they developed a shoulder harness system instead. Buddy was the spokesperson—or spokesdog? To get this portrait, one of Buddy’s owners, Johnny, was basically on the ground holding him up in the air, while his other owner, Roxanne, was leaning over top of me trying to coax him with a piece of cheese. I was the last person to photograph Buddy. I was really upset to hear that he passed away so quickly after the photo shoot.”

(Image: Pete Thorne) (Image: Pete Thorne)
 

Hughie
Chihuahua–toy poodle mix, 12
“Hughie looks more like a sheep than a dog. He was a little sweetheart. He arrived at the studio as part of a group from the SPCA in Nova Scotia. I had contacted them because I wanted to highlight some dogs that they might have in foster, and the sponsor brought four little doggies in matching rain coats. Hughie was one of them.”

(Image: Pete Thorne) (Image: Pete Thorne)
 

Norman
British bulldog, 12
“Norman was a little curmudgeon, rambunctious to the point of being difficult to shoot. When owners come in, they usually have so many great things to say about their dogs. Norman’s owner was like, ‘Nope, Norman is just kind of a jerk.’ In the book, she writes, ‘I wish I could say that Norman is a loving and happy dog, but he really isn’t and never has been. It’s just not his way.’ Yet the amount of love she has for Norman is evident. He’s had so many medical problems. She would do anything for this dog.”

(Image: Pete Thorne) (Image: Pete Thorne)
 

Martin
Wheaton terrier, 15
“Martin has a mop top. He has such poor eyesight and so much hair in his face that he probably just relies on his nose. He was difficult to photograph because he wasn’t able to sit—his hind legs were going out on him. I shot him in Vancouver and his family came out. It was a treat for the kids to go to the studio and see their dog put up on this pedestal.”

(Image: Pete Thorne) (Image: Pete Thorne)
 

Murphy
Great Dane, 10½
“After I committed to doing the book, I wanted find as many breeds as possible. I was really excited when an owner of two Great Danes in Halifax contacted me. I’ve always loved Great Danes, but I didn’t come across any in Toronto. Downtown, you get a lot of smaller, apartment-dwelling dogs, like pugs, French bulldogs and Chihuahuas. In this portrait of Murphy, only his head is sticking into the shot because he was literally the size of a pony. I have a photo of him standing next to my parents and he’s almost up to their shoulders. It’s incredible.”

(Image: Pete Thorne) (Image: Pete Thorne)
 

Mance
Old English bulldog, 13
“Mance was another original old faithful. He had bone cancer in his face and it gave him this asymmetrical appearance. I used to a have a bulldog, so this is a breed really close to my heart. This was the first time I took the project out of my home studio and did a house call because he was in such rough shape and wasn’t able to travel.”

(Image: Pete Thorne) (Image: Pete Thorne)
 

Sam
Chihuahua, 17
“Sam is so cute. When he arrived at the shelter, they had to keep him separate from the other dogs because he was chasing all the male dogs away from the females. He was a little ladies’ man.”