Every picture tells a story: The Dog Cover

In this series, creative director Cathy Mullaly shares the stories behind some of the pictures in BCBusiness and Vancouver magazine.

Credit: Clinton Hussey

In this series, creative director Cathy Mullaly shares the stories behind some of the pictures in BCBusiness and Vancouver magazines

You know what they say about photographing kids and dogs…don’t. But they also say that the things you work the hardest for you appreciate the most—and that’s the case with the July 2010 cover, which I always call “the Dog Cover.

The Top 100 issue is always a challenging cover for us at BCBusiness. It’s the same concept pretty much every year: here they are, the biggest B.C. companies by revenue. Of course, there are all the usual amazing stories, but we don’t single one company out—it’s a celebration of successful businesses throughout the province.

So in 2010, we decided to have a top dog represent the Top 100. Our editor-in-chief at the time, Matt O’Grady, had a soft spot for Old English mastiffs. I looked them up and thought, OK, a bit droopy around the face, but I can see this dog representing business—it could be like the big crusty boss who gets things done. Next step: find an Old English mastiff.

At this point, word got around the office that we were shooting a dog for our cover, and coworkers starting sending me photos of theirs. There was even a serious suggestion that someone’s wiener dog would be perfect. I didn’t think so.

The hunt was on. In years past, there was a company in Vancouver that supplied animals for movies, but they were no longer in business. What to do? I assigned the photo shoot to a BCBusiness favourite, Clinton Hussey, who mentioned that he still had a contact at the company. Within a day or two, we had our Old English mastiff lined up. We decided on the background, had a fun Top 100 winner ribbon made and were ready to go: studio, photographer, props and, most important, our model. Check, check, check and check.

On the day of the photo shoot, our Old English mastiff and her owner arrived. She was 13. I’m not ageist, but 13 is very old for a large dog, especially an Old English mastiff. She had a slope to her gait, and her sit quickly melted into horizontal collapse. Her muzzle was grey, her eyes were gooey, and her ears drooped. I was sure we would need to find another Old English mastiff—and that this whole shoot would have to be set up all over again. We went through the motions, though. The dog would sit up for a few moments if you offered her a treat. We wiped her eyes, and periodically, one of her ears would perk up.

Credit: Clinton Hussey

Our model did her very best, but she didn’t quite have the moxie we were looking for

When the shoot was over, I went home for the day and started to make plans to reschedule.

One thing I will say about BCBusiness covers is that they’re usually very true to life. We do very little manipulation, if any, on our covers, which authentically reflect the subject. Not in this case, though. Overnight, Clinton and his team of Photoshop experts had taken the best bits of our grand dame and created the perfect cover image. They managed to make a composite—starting with the one pose where she was standing up straight, using an ear from another and the nose from a third—cleaned up the eyes and even removed the grey.  The next morning, I went into the office to find the final result in my inbox. She was magnificent.

Credit: Clinton Hussey.

There’s a good girl

How did the shoot go? Matt asked. “It was excellent, I replied. Everything went according to plan, and we have our perfect Top 100 cover. He agreed. It seems you can teach an old dog new tricks—just make one of them Photoshop.