Capturing the world through photography, video and multimedia

A (downtown) dogs’ life

Dogs make great subjects to photograph because they’re funny and unpredictable. Over the years I’ve enjoyed capturing their antics.

A few months ago I worked on a story about the booming population of pet dogs in downtown Los Angeles. The idea of dogs in such an urban environment was interesting to me, and I wanted to create a humorous audio slideshow of dogs in this setting.

Everyday there is a constant flow of people walking their dogs near my workplace. It doesn’t get much easier to go out and start working on a story. But finding the perfect subjects wasn’t as easy as I’d first thought. A few earlier ideas didn’t pan out.

Last month, while walking along Spring Street near Third Street, near the Los Angeles Times building, I noticed a gigantic dog from about two blocks away. It appeared to be an oversized Dalmatian. That was enough to motivate me to run as fast as I could to catch up with it and the young man walking him, before they disappeared out of sight.  Fortunately, they had stepped inside a market, where I spotted them.

As I approached the market, I also noticed another cool dog that I thought could also be a good subject. It looked like the Spuds MacKenzie from Bud Lite commercial fame, with a young woman holding its leash, outside the market.  After talking to the man, it turned out that he and the woman were a couple, living together in a downtown loft, with these two dogs, and I couldn’t have been happier for them and myself. I now had my subjects.

It turned out it was more than just any big dog. Jackson was a 150-pound harlequin great Dane.

Michael Gonzalez and Desiree Ramirez, both 26, live together in a Spring Street loft with Jackson and Bentley, a 2-year-old bull terrier.  They find downtown friendlier than the suburbs for a dog’s life.  Fortunately, they also considered me a part of that downtown friendliness and allowed me to hang out with them and document their lives with their dogs.

Because many of the businesses allow dogs inside and a lot of restaurants permit them in patio areas, Michael and Desiree can include the dogs in their  everyday lives.

Photographing a 150-pound dog was an interesting experience. Jackson weighs about as much as I do and liked to playfully slam me into the wall when I got close to him with my camera in the loft. His swinging tail was like a baseball bat. Jackson did get the better of me once and knocked me down with his paws.

As for Bentley, he didn’t like the fact that I was paying too much attention to the big man and would purposely vie for my attention by walking in front of my lens whenever I tried to get a low angle shot of Jackson.

As for collecting audio of the dogs, they made some of the best sounds when they played together inside the loft. They were constantly chasing each other around the room like track stars, and I was constantly chasing them from behind in a mostly futile attempt to get my microphone as close as possible.

Here’s their story in the audio slideshow above.


  1. December 14, 2010, 11:35 am

    As a downtown resident who does not own a dog, these types of articles infuriate me. It is not cute or "funny" to have your dog sit with you at a restaurant/bar or let it put its paws on seats, counters, and railings (as pictured above). Human patrons drink and dine at these places and we don't need dirty paws and loose hair near our meals and beverages.

    I'm a dog lover and I love them enough to understand that owning one while living in a city setting is not responsible. It seems that downtown dog owners only have their pets so that they themselves have an excuse to me more social, not that it's in the best interest of the dog.

    And as for the "best sounds" the dogs made when they "played together inside the loft"…yeah, I'm sure their downstairs neighbor really loved that.

    There needs to be a better sense of common courtesy and respect for the neighborhood and residents. Some downtown dog owners are way too oblivious.

    By: Not Impressed
  2. December 14, 2010, 3:09 pm

    As a downtown resident for over 14 years, it's people like you who infuriate me.
    I lived in downtown Los Angeles far before loft living was trendy,and as years pass, it's the pretentious people in the area who bother more than even the largest of animal at my side.

    It's wonderful to see this area becoming a pet friendly community. Perhaps you should move? In-fact you should. Your probably living in a foe loft apartment with textured walls, re-locate to a track home in Orange County.

    Anyone who refers to people having a drink as a "human Patron" has a stick up there a**. Merry Christmas!

    – Ronald L. Cohen

  3. December 17, 2010, 4:55 pm

    BOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! Nothing makes me smile more than seeing well behaved dogs welcomed into restaurants and shops! They are not filthy vermin and there is nothing wrong with them being places where humans eat and drink. You eat and drink at home with your dog, don't you?

    Not everyone can live on a sprawling country estate with acres of land for their dogs to roam. Suggesting that people who live in cities should be deprived of having a dog is absolutely ridiculous! As long and they're loved and properly cared for they're happy wherever their people are.

    Stop being so bitter!

  4. December 14, 2010, 11:50 am

    Great pictures and video! I have 2 pitbulls at home and I always have a camera ready for funny shots/ moments. =)

    By: wrAngie
  5. December 14, 2010, 11:58 am

    Thanks for the shots! Looks like a lot of fun.

    By: Dave
  6. December 14, 2010, 1:33 pm

    LOVED the photos. Such a fun slide show.. and those dog booties.. HILARIOUS and cute. My dog is a city raised and he is a happy little guy.. my opinion, if you don't like paws on the rails or anywhere near your food, don't go to pet-friendly establishments. …. Neighbors don't like any type of dog noises… don't live in pet friendly apartments… problem solved. But, if you don't own a dog, you'll never understand.

    By: Melissa
  7. December 14, 2010, 2:17 pm

    Dear “Not Impressed”

    Maybe you should move out of such a dog friendly neighborhood environment and stop complaining. Just a thought.

    Go pet your obnoxious cat in your solitude and bitterness.

    By: Pissed off
  8. December 14, 2010, 8:40 pm

    Great Danes have always been my favorite kind of dog. My family had these gentle giants throughout my childhood & still to this day. I LOVE them!! I was so happy to see your slideshow. I'm just surprised they can have that size dog in a downtown loft.

    By: Charity
  9. December 14, 2010, 8:40 pm

    Danes are actually very good apartment dwellers — they're big but quiet and fairly low-octane. My late rat terrier used to join me at a bar down the street from my house. Everybody loved her. It was hard not to love her; she had a phenomenal repertoire of Stupid Pet Tricks and was demonstrably cleaner and better-mannered than a lot of the human customers. If we left her at home, people would always inquire after her.

    By: redforkhippie
  10. December 14, 2010, 11:41 pm

    As a dog and cat owner I LOVE and appreciate articles that show pets in a positive light. It can be extremely hard to find pet friendly residences (as evidenced by the amount of pets being given away on craigslist because their owner was unable to find a pet friendly home) It seems as though dog and cats get a vary unfair rap and showing these animals in images and stories that can make even a bah humbug smile may hopefully make them think twice about counting them out of their home or complex. And as for someone who dislikes living with animals them move out of the pet friendly place. There are TONS of pet free places.

    By: Corin Bishop
  11. December 15, 2010, 5:56 pm

    I just love the dogs in downtown but HATE hate that the owners let them pee everywhere! Most owners pick up their dogs poop (though some jerks don’t!) but they still pee right out the door where we walk

    and step on it! It doesn’t take much to WASH IT DOWN with a sports bottle of water that way it doesn’t STINK as much especially in the heat! PLEASE owners spread the word it would make a world of difference! Stepping in urine is just as unsanitary as their poo!

    Let’s make downtown pet owners and non owners get along by keeping it clean!

    By: LoveDogsHateOwners
  12. December 16, 2010, 10:46 am

    Mel, your images are beautifully composed and joyful to see. I am also a pro photographer and can truly appreciate how difficult it is to chase your subject around. I love the idea of combining audio with the stills. the whole project is so fun and creative, I just wanted to give you a great big pat on the back.

    By: tlee
  13. December 21, 2010, 7:55 pm

    This was awesome! Great job telling a story with the pictures and the voice over. The shots felt really alive.


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