Modeling Ruffwear gear above a San Francisco sunrise


My heeler's heart is as light as the sun when we're on the trail together having fun. ©Jaymi Heimbuch

My heeler's heart is as light as the sun when we're on the trail together having fun. ©Jaymi Heimbuch


While I was writing an article about how to train your dog to wear a backpack, Ruffwear sent me a fantastic pack test out with my dog, Niner. The company makes great gear that is well-designed and durably constructed, and we were thrilled to get a new pack to put through its paces. So, we woke up one workday morning, waited impatiently for first light, then booked it out the door and up to a little preserve near our apartment, which gives a gorgeous view of the bay and San Francisco at sunrise.

It is a bit of a hike to get to the top of Corona Heights, but the view is well worth it. © Jaymi Heimbuch

It is a bit of a hike to get to the top of Corona Heights, but the view is well worth it. © Jaymi Heimbuch

One of the greatest parts about this tiny preserve, apart from the view, is the rocky outcrops. They afford the opportunity to get some exercise and balancing practice while scrambling around on them, as well as that "I'm the king of the mountain" feeling that come with standing atop them and getting a 360-degree view of the city.

We love to watch the sun as it rises up over the east side of the bay, and washes the water and city of San Francisco in pink and gold light. © Jaymi Heimbuch

We love to watch the sun as it rises up over the east side of the bay, and washes the water and city of San Francisco in pink and gold light. © Jaymi Heimbuch

After pausing to take in the extraordinary sunrise -- well, Niner enjoyed the view while I enjoyed shooting in the pick and purple light -- we got down to work and focused on why we were there in the first place: showing off the goods.

We got down to work, first making sure Niner's Ruffwear pack fit properly © Jaymi Heimbuch

We got down to work, first making sure Niner's Ruffwear pack fit properly © Jaymi Heimbuch

We love that the Ruffwear pack comes with collapsible water bladders so we never have to worry about how to bring along water. © Jaymi Heimbuch

We love that the Ruffwear pack comes with collapsible water bladders so we never have to worry about how to bring along water. © Jaymi Heimbuch

We also love that this model is removable from the harness. Easier to put it on and take it off during breaks. © Jaymi Heimbuch

We also love that this model is removable from the harness. Easier to put it on and take it off during breaks. © Jaymi Heimbuch

Scrambling around on the rocks to figure out new shots is always a bonus. © Jaymi Heimbuch

Scrambling around on the rocks to figure out new shots is always a bonus. © Jaymi Heimbuch

Just when we thought the light couldn't get prettier, pink gave way to brilliant gold and orange. Sunrises often pack a colorful surprise. © Jaymi Heimbuch

Just when we thought the light couldn't get prettier, pink gave way to brilliant gold and orange. Sunrises often pack a colorful surprise. © Jaymi Heimbuch

When we had enough shots for the article, we started a game of chase up and down the rocks. There's always time for a game of the zoomies. © Jaymi Heimbuch

When we had enough shots for the article, we started a game of chase up and down the rocks. There's always time for a game of the zoomies. © Jaymi Heimbuch

Something that has evolved from this partnership of a dog-centric photographer and a really smart heeler is that Niner has learned how to be an ideal model. He's learned how to strike a pose, hold a pose, take commands from a distance so I can get him in a good position for a shot up on a hill or even in a tree, and he looks right at the camera when he hears "focus."

We've worked together on tricks specifically for modeling, such as targeting, bowing, and holding or balancing objects. When he knows he's earning treats, he has extraordinary patience with staying in one spot until released. And he certainly earns plenty of great treats. How could he not? I mean, look at that face:

Over the years, Niner has learned just how to model, looking right at the camera and holding a pose. © Jaymi Heimbuch

Over the years, Niner has learned just how to model, looking right at the camera and holding a pose. © Jaymi Heimbuch

It has helped to teach my dog to take directions at a distance, so I can compose a shot with him a ways away. © Jaymi Heimbuch

It has helped to teach my dog to take directions at a distance, so I can compose a shot with him a ways away. © Jaymi Heimbuch

A great recall has two benefits: getting my dog back at my side, and getting a shot of him with that joyful face. © Jaymi Heimbuch

A great recall has two benefits: getting my dog back at my side, and getting a shot of him with that joyful face. © Jaymi Heimbuch

Watching the sun rise, scrambling over rocks, sprinting through puddles, and climbing in trees -- there's not many better ways to start a day. © Jaymi Heimbuch

Watching the sun rise, scrambling over rocks, sprinting through puddles, and climbing in trees -- there's not many better ways to start a day. © Jaymi Heimbuch

I think that photography has in some ways helped increase our bond. He loves to work, I love to photograph him, and we both love being out on a trail together, starting out the day with a hike just us together. Whether it's a tiny trail in the middle of the city or driving out of the city at 5 AM to get to the hills on the other side of the bay for sunrise, it is time that we spend deeply aware of the other's presence. Photography adds in that extra element of paying attention to each other. I'm constantly inspired by him to create new images, which leads to even more time logged on trails and walking paths, which leads to even more quality time together.

He has taught me a lot about patience, creativity, sensitivity to a dog's mood, and how to roll with whatever happens because you never know what will lead to a beautiful shot you didn't plan for. I cherish these opportunities with him, whether work-related or not. Three cheers for sunrises in nature with your four-legged best friend!

I get so much joy from seeing a happy smile on my dog's face. © Jaymi Heimbuch

I get so much joy from seeing a happy smile on my dog's face. © Jaymi Heimbuch

Photos © Jaymi Heimbuch. All rights reserved. Most photos on my site are available for purchase as prints. If you see an image in a blog post that you’re interested in, please send an email. I’d be happy to work with you to create a print you’ll love.