On a winter day in 2010, photographer Pauline Zonneveld recalls, she noticed her neighbor's elderly Australian shepherd, Kali, "walking gingerly, with such a gentle expression." She made a mental note to photograph her and surprise the neighbor with a portrait, but before she had a chance to do so, Kali died.
Recognizing that the clock is always ticking, Zonneveld, 53, set out to find more aging models—cockeyed teeth, grizzled smiles, graying beards, and all. "They might not be puppies," she says, "but these dogs have real vitality."
For the Good Old Dog Project, now in its third year, Zonneveld has photographed more than 188 canines, all of whom have reached or surpassed their expected life spans. (She charges owners only a retainer for prints.) The portraits are exhibited in her studio and in galleries and coffee shops around Zonneveld's hometown of Portland, Oregon, but she plans to extend the project to Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle this fall. As the dogs play their way through the shoot, their souls shine through. "In the studio I let them just be," she says. "No matter how lethargic old dogs are, they become energetic and alert, and when I'm lucky, even their past goofy selves."
12, Shetland Sheepdog
His owner says: "He's Mr. Social with riders on the early morning bus, but come 9 P.M., it's bedtime."
Next: See more photos from the Good Old Dog Project