Melissa started photographing at age 6. Melissa has lived with dogs all her life.

Photos: top left by Mike Tarabulski; all others by Dominic Tidmarsh; Long Haired Dachshund by Melissa Schelling age 7

Photos: top left by Mike Tarabulski; all others by Dominic Tidmarsh; Long Haired Dachshund by Melissa Schelling age 7

My Life With Dogs

During the Year of Living Dog-less, strange dogs yanked on their leashes to come see me. Weeks after my best dog passed on, a pack of 10 dogs suddenly surrounded me. Dogs know when you need them most, and I was lost without my 16 year old dog.

There was another dog-less year, age 6-7. Every day the Beagle next door played with me, then howled when I left. Each night during bath time, I practiced my Beagle howl at full volume. Finally, my mother gave in and got me another dog.

By age 11, I was leash walking four dogs by myself: two Great Danes heeling on the left, long haired Dachshund trotting on the right, and pure black German Shepherd striding out in front. My parents didn't worry for my safety - nobody was going to bother a little girl walking huge dogs.

I grew up with purebreds: Basset Hound, Long Haired Dachshund, Miniature Long Haired Dachshund, Great Danes, German Shepherd, Great Pyrenees. But fell in love with mutts the instant I rescued a 6 week old puppy from the river. As an adult I’ve had five mutts and two feisty Border Terriers. In addition, I have cared for a Sheltie, Pomeranian, Black Lab, another Great Pyrenees, Beagle, and an out of control terrier who settled down beautifully after running on the beach every day.

I have rescued several dogs - one dog caught in a leg hold trap; a frightened Golden Retriever at the top of a waterfall; three dogs stuck on a wobbly section of old lava flow; and my puppy from the river. I tried dog sports before they had a name: running my German Shepherd over horse jumps in 1973; harnessing my Foxhound/Husky mix to pull me on skis across a frozen Maine lake in 1981. Now I play dog agility, AKC Rally, and participate in dog behavior research.

The decisive moments in my life all center around dogs. I was even born in Year of the Dog.