My mom was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1986. I was young and don’t really remember much except that she had semi-permanent marks on her chest where she was radiated and a few wigs and turbans in her closet that she ended up not needing.
Fifteen years later, the disease came back with a vengeance. This time, it metastasized in her hip and spreading quickly. She passed away in 2002 at 59 years old. Since that time, I’ve wanted to do something special to honor her memory and contribute to the eradication of the disease. I’ve participated in a few breast cancer walks and made some donations, but I knew (hoped) there was something more I could do for a cause very close to my heart.
As luck would have it, at the beginning of this past year, I received an email from a local dog fancier, inquiring if Iʼd be interested in collaborating to create a calendar to raise money for breast cancer research. I am a pet photographer (and a lawyer), and the calendar would consist of images of adorable puppies in pink scenes. She and her petsitter had done a similar calendar a few years earlier with a litter of puppies she agreed to help when the owner was diagnosed with breast cancer. The two of them spent a few weeks photographing the litter — dubbed the “Pink Ribbon Puppies” — in pink scenes. With the help of a local printer, a calendar was designed and printed and in just a little over a month, they raised $16,000. After another friend was diagnosed, she thought it would be a good time to do another calendar. A serendipitous Google search for Dallas-based pet photographers led her to contact me.
We met at a local coffee shop and started brainstorming. What was originally to be a few days of photographing Labrador puppies quickly morphed into much more. It's funny, but neither of us really remembers exactly how the evolution happened, it was so natural! We're both single professional women with too many dogs and we just pretty much instantly clicked—a good thing because we've spent a lot of time together this year!
We, along with a third woman, formalized Pink Ribbon Puppies, filing for incorporation and 501c3 status. Iʼve since spent the last six or seven months photographing lots of puppies in pink scenes along with developing and designing products to sell. Our “models” are all puppies, typically 7-9 weeks old (and therefore, not exactly well trained — luckily, my partner in crime is an excellent wrangler!). They are all either from reputable breeders with health-tested dogs or are from local rescue organizations.
Pink Ribbon Puppies, Inc. is currently made up of just the three of us, all volunteers and all with very busy lives outside of the project. We’re two lawyers and a consultant who also happen to be a pet photographer, a dog breeder, and a mom. I personally wear a lot of different hats): photography, post processing, graphic design, art directing, web and social media management, sales, packaging/shipping, vendor relations, product development. It’s been all-consuming, but as with any passion, I make time (admittedly, the puppy kisses help!).
We launched the official Pink Ribbon Puppies, Inc. this month, in conjunction with Breast Cancer Awareness month. This year, Pink Ribbon Puppies is offering two 9x12 wall calendars, one featuring Labrador puppies and another featuring “Friends of Labradors” ranging from a Great Dane to a rescued Pomeranian mix. In addition, we are selling 4x6 pocket calendars, note cards, and greeting cards - and a line of holiday cards will be released soon. And weʼll be adding more products as we go forward! And 100 percent of the proceeds benefit the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
I am a dog person —I have three of my own — and I come by it naturally. Growing up, we always had at least one dog, usually more, and they were considered members of our family. I love them, and my mom did too. So it has seemed fitting that dogs figure prominently in my version of honoring her memory.
All net proceeds will be donated to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation. The decision as to where to donate the funds was actually pretty easy - the proceeds from the previous calendar when to BCRF and it was a no brainer to do the same. Very few nonprofits can boost that over 90 percent of their budgets are spent on the programs and services they exist to deliver.
About the Author:
Debbie Bryant is the photographer behind thank Dog. photography. She's been photographing pets since 2009. Motivated by losing her mom to breast cancer in 2002, she partnered up with Carrie Eberhardt in 2013 to relaunch launch Pink Ribbon Puppies, Inc.