By Jessica Wiant -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- It's a good thing Rory and Carol Nansel's pets aren't camera shy.
"All three of them, they see the camera and it's like, 'OK, time for shots!'" Nansel said earlier this week.
"I tend to take a lot of pictures of the dogs," Mrs. Nansel said.
The Nansels' three golden retrievers get their pictures taken plenty. In fact, more than one of them have found their furry faces in print.
Most recently, 8-year-old Joey is featured in an annual page-a-day calendar called "365 Dogs" for 2012.
The calendar boasts being "America's Bestselling Dog Calendar" and "America's Favorite Dog Calendar" on its cover, and 2012's is the 25th anniversary edition. Each page features a submitted photo of a dog and a brief description or anecdote about the featured pet.
Each year, thousands of photos are submitted to Workman Publishing Co., the calendar's publisher, for its cat, dog, puppy and kitten calendars, Workman editor-in-chief Susan Bolotin said by phone.
A photo researcher spends about six months out of the year sorting through photos and discarding ones that won't work. Later, editors narrow it down further and choose photos and stories to get a wide variety for the calendars, whether it's a beautiful picture, instructive story or one that tugs at the heartstrings, according to Bolotin.
"It's quite a process," she said.
It isn't the first time Joey's been a pin-up dog.
He was the 17th of nearly 30 golden retrievers the Nansels have taken into foster care since becoming involved with GRREAT, a golden retriever rescue organization, several years ago. He's only the second that has won their hearts enough to be a "keeper."
Joey is also Mr. December in the 2012 GRREAT calendar, and the Nansels' dogs have been featured in other editions of that and "365 Dogs" as well as in books by the late Fort Valley photographer and author Jean Fogle. Mrs. Nansel has also entered VECCA photography shows, and sometimes submits entries to the county fair, she said.
The Irish-setter-red dog was given up to GRREAT by a young family in Spotsylvania County who had young children and kept him crated most of the time.
People tend to think of dogs as cute little "fuzz butts" or "sedate, elderly" companions, when the truth can be quite different, according to Nansel.
"Nobody sees the nightmares," he laughed, or, as his wife calls them, "the teenagers."
That, they explained is why so many golden retrievers can end up needing to be fostered and adopted.
With Joey, the Nansels first had to treat him for both kennel cough and Lyme disease when they took him in as a foster pet. Other dogs they've fostered have had health and behavioral issues as well.
"Rory and I decided to do fostering as a way of doing some volunteer work," Mrs. Nansel explained. Fostering golden retrievers worked better with their busy schedules than any type of volunteering that required keeping certain hours, she explained.
Having other pets, including two shelter cats, has made the work of fostering easier, Nansel explained.
"A lot of the work is minimalized a little bit by our dogs," he said. "They see the other dogs doing it, and it's easier to learn it."
"They all get along," Mrs. Nansel said.
At 8, Joey, still, clearly has plenty of energy, but it's one of the things that drew the Nansels to him.
"He's a clown," Mrs. Nansel said.
"He's the play meister," Nansel added.
Mrs. Nansel has a long history of owning and competing with dogs in American Kennel Club agility competitions.
Growing up, she said, she was limited to owning one dog, usually a mixed breed, at a time. As a 4-Her she first did obedience with mixed breeds, but purebreds were required for AKC competitions, and when she saw a golden retriever at an event, she knew she wanted one. Now, golden retrievers have owned Mrs. Nansel for about 30 years.
"I think I've always had a dog," she said. "I can't imagine not having one."
She added the funny story of how she made sure Nansel met her two dogs before their first date as a test to see how he would do.
"He was on the floor playing with them," she said, so she knew he had potential.
They've now been married 20 years.
While fostering Joey for a second time after a first adoptive family was unable to keep him, the Nansels began taking him along to agility events, Mrs. Nansel said.
Though they typically avoided working with agility with their foster pets, they thought Joey, with his "field stock" tall, lean, muscular build, was a good prospect, so they decided to keep him.
On the Nansels' 0.45-acre lot, they have their own agility course with a teeter-totter, weave poles and other features for practicing with their dogs. They compete at events throughout the region.
Joey, officially registered with the AKC as "GRREAT Joey of Woodstock, MX, MXJ, XF, CGC" -- the letters are his AKC agility titles -- seems to love the sport.
The Nansels' youngest dog, Kenzie, wasn't a rescue but was a dog bred specifically for agility competition. Since starting with Kenzie, Joey and Kenzie both have taken up dock diving as a sport as well, the Nansels said.
At home, Joey and his canine siblings all have daily jobs that keep them active. Joey's, Mrs. Nansel explained, is to walk out with her husband each morning to retrieve the day's newspaper, which he then brings back to her in bed. He can also carry laundry like folded towels or even rolls of toilet paper up from the pantry in the basement.
"It makes him happy," Nansel said. "It makes him proud."
"He just gets really proud when he gets to carry something," Mrs. Nansel said.
The "365 Dogs" calendar and others including "365 Cats," "Bad Cat" and "Bad Dog" are published annually by Workman Publishing Co. in New York using submitted entries. For more information or to enter one of the contests, go online to www.workman.com/contests. For more information about GRREAT, go online to www.grreat.org.