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The Older, the Better

A new book of dog portraits celebrates the wizened and gray

Old Friends by Mark Asher shows senior dogs in their most wise, dignified, and funny moments. A collection of poochy portraits, this lovely tribute shares the “longevity secrets” of older dogs, such as “long walks after dinner” and “palling around with the family duck.”

Chronicle Books is offering a substantial discount to shelters interested in selling the book in their shops: 50 percent off the cover price of $14.95 for customers ordering ten copies or more. For more information on discounts, call 1-800-722-6657.

Asher recently spoke to Animal Sheltering about his homage to aging canines.

AS: How did this project come about?
MA: I kind of stumbled into it. I had a dog at the time who was about to turn eight, which is kind of considered a senior for a large-breed dog. I adopted him when he was six months old. So he was getting older, and then I saw some older dogs around the neighborhood where I lived. I did some research and found that there had been a ton of illustrated books on different breeds and puppies, but there was nothing on senior dogs.

AS: Where did you find your subjects?
MA: The initial photos were mostly dogs I knew in the neighborhood. And then once the publisher made the offer, I went to online bulletin boards, the SPCA, vets and groomers, and put up flyers and postings. And there was actually one dog I saw when I was coming home from a shoot. I was walking down the street and I saw the owner and I said, “Hey, I’d really be interested in photographing your dog; I just got back from a shoot and here’s what I’m doing.” We were just talking and he said, “I’m interested,” and he gave me his card, and I looked over my shoulder and the sun was just going down under the Golden Gate Bridge and I said, “How about right now?”

AS: How did you learn the dogs’ “longevity secrets”?
MA: The longevity secrets were from talking to the owners. Sometimes they came short and punchy and sometimes they would write a paragraph. The longevity secrets were part of the original concept but I never really thought much of it. I thought of it as an afterthought to the photographs. But people really, really got a kick out of it, and it really added a lot to the book. And Chronicle Books kept pushing me to work harder and refine them and make them better, so I really give them credit.

AS: I understand you had an encounter with an enthusiastic Jack Russell and a somewhat irresponsible owner while you were shooting for the book?
MA: I was in a dog park in Sausalito and was photographing the dog named Ollie and I had my camera bag about ten yards away as we were moving to different spots as I was photographing. And the owner of Ollie [pointed to another dog in the park and] said, “You know, I think that dog just peed in your camera bag.” The pee got on the inside of the bag where the film is but luckily didn’t get on the film. And the [other] owner never said anything to me about it. He cleaned up another thing his dog had done but never said anything to me.


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