In 2017, artist Margaret Foxmoore decided to pick up a camera to photograph the beautiful dogs she encountered in her daily life. Walking through a park, she photographed dogs and their people. Traveling into New York City, she captured images of dogs playing in parks and participating in parades, homeless people and their four-legged companions, working police K9s… dogs of every size, shape, and color.
Margaret added dog shows to the list of places she photographed. However, she wasn’t so interested in the dogs gaiting in the ring; there were already plenty of photographers capturing that. Instead, Margaret focused on the intimate scenes all around the show site. The beauty of a dog on a grooming table, with someone’s gentle hands arranging a topknot. The connection between the handler and the dog at the other end of a leash. Scenes of love, joy, pride, and even the exhaustion at the end of the day.
The more images she collected, the more she was determined to share them with the world. An idea came to her; a publication to be called Dogs Outside The Ring. It would feature dogs during the twenty-three hours and fifty-eight minutes that they aren’t in the breed ring (it has been said that a judge has two minutes per dog in the breed ring); a showcase of dogs seen through the lens of an artist.
The first few issues of Dogs Outside The Ring were purely digital collections of images, along with a few short articles about the dogs featured within. Around this time, Margaret photographed me and my puppy ringside at a show. I loved the image and requested a copy. Neither of us knew it at the time, but fate had brought us together. My work background was medical transcription and proofreading, and Margaret asked me to edit articles that had been contributed. The combination of Margaret’s creative vision with my love of words has proven a perfect match.
This partnership began to grow and flourish. In February 2020, Margaret and I assembled a small crew of photographers to cover the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. It was an exciting moment, entering the Chelsea Piers not as exhibitors or spectators, but as members of the press. We spoke to dozens of people while capturing thousands of images. We started early in the morning, and found ourselves editing well into the night—only to wake up and do it again the next day! There was a quiet undercurrent that week, a low buzz, that was soon to grow louder until it would change our world.
That low buzz turned out to be the worldwide pandemic that would bring seismic change to our lives. The following month, I was at the Kentuckiana Cluster when it was announced that the last two days of the event would be canceled. Like dominos, dog shows and other events were falling as they were canceled. The plans we’d loosely made to attend and cover various events fell by the wayside as we all adjusted to this new situation.
We continued to brainstorm, and developed a plan for a book featuring the art of the dog. We contacted artists, authors, and poets around the world who featured dogs in their work. This was something we could do “remotely,” and we published a beautiful issue. Our next project was devoted to the nine native breeds of Ireland, and once again, we collected material from an international group. Many of the contributors to both of these projects were affected by COVID-19; it took the life of Hector Baptista whose work is on the cover of the Art of the Dog edition.
Margaret continued to travel into New York City with her camera, where she regularly encountered the police and their canine partners. With fewer people moving about and the city nearly vacant, the K9 teams stood out. One day, she stopped to ask an officer and his K9 for directions, and he asked her why she had never photographed them. He’d seen her pass through the subway station with her camera many times, and invited her to attend one of the United States Police Canine Association trials in order to learn more about what they do.
The trial was an eye-opener, and Margaret gained a new appreciation for the work these teams do. It soon became her mission to capture the working K9s that were keeping our city, and our nation, safe. The officers guided the process, helping her locate teams she’d not yet photographed. A strong bond has developed and the officers are now more like friends and family.
The Dogs That Serve has been a series of publications. Previous editions were printed and shared with the officers who were inside. We have felt very protective over the officers and their safety, but, in 2022, Margaret had a conversation with Lieutenant Pappas of the NYPD Transit Bureau Canine Unit. Public perception of police departments was declining rapidly. The thought was that if we shared beautiful images of working K9s with the world, maybe we’d show a positive side of the police.
The focus would be the NYPD Transit Bureau Canine Unit and the MTA Police Canine Unit. These are the units that keep mass transit safe, and thus, keep the nation safe. For the most part, these dogs are trained in detection, not protection. Their greatest asset is their nose, not their teeth.
Margaret has been photographing these units for five years. She has developed relationships with the officers she regularly sees around the city, and so, she asked several officers to write something for this project. Dogs Outside The Ring has been fortunate to have received amazing contributions about the history of the units, the training they undergo, and the lives the officers lead with their K9 partners by their sides.
When we shared a pre-publication proof with one of the contributors, his dad responded with the
“Thank you so much for your kind words about Paul. He is like many of our brave NYPD K9 officers and their partners, a part of what makes our city safe. But, it’s people like you who bring these proud officers and their canine partners to the front of the public eye. You are just as important, if not more, to their service than you may fathom. And as a parent, we pray for the best outcome for their daily tours. Seeing your photographs over the years of our brave men and women of the NYPC TB gives me pause to appreciate how your photographs bring their heroism to light. This publication will recognize what is beautiful about those who serve our canine units and our citizens. And you should be proud to be the author, photographically, of what that service looks like. God bless you, Margaret!”
These beautiful words are truly why we create. Dogs Outside The Ring brings to life the old cliché, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Looking to the future, we are working on an issue featuring canine couture, and another dedicated to the native breeds of Italy. We’ve been invited to cover earthdogs, dock diving, and police certification trials. As I write this, Margaret is in Birmingham for Crufts and I am packing for my return to the Kentuckiana Cluster. Margaret and I are looking forward to a new experience at Westminster, and we hope to see you there!