Dogs using Slow Ways: the story behind the project


How to tell another creature’s story? Here are our ethical wranglings as we tried to work out how to represent a whole other view of Slow Ways routes

As part of our exciting new Dogs using Slow Ways project, in collaboration with talented wildlife photographer Jasmine Pasha, we followed a number of dogs, capturing the possibilities the routes may hold for them – to explore, discover, make connections with other dogs and to get from A to B. To find out the inspiration behind the project, read on.

The story behind the project

I was out walking my first Slow Way when I became acutely aware of the presence of dogs. I was captivated by their behaviours – the way they interacted with each other, with the route and the different terrain it covered. More and more, I felt as though the dogs were embarking on their very own Slow Ways journeys independent of their ‘owners’.

I saw an Irish Water Spaniel running along the foreshore of the sea and a Beagle sniffing around the long grass, and a Golden Retriever looking out onto the setting sun

On my walk, I saw an Irish Water Spaniel running along the foreshore of the sea and a Beagle sniffing around the long grass, and a Golden Retriever looking out onto the setting sun. I wondered what they made of the walk – what they enjoyed and what they didn’t enjoy about it. I loved the idea of decentring human-beings and reimagining Slow Way paths from a canine perspective.

I thought back to Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs. The dogs had such unique personalities, just like dogs I’d gotten to know and love – a rather quiet Rhodesian Ridgeback named Kumar and a playful energetic Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Gabby. I lived with the two dogs for a month in Berowra, on the outskirts of Sydney, and in my short time there I came to know them as friends. I loved exploring the bushland with them. My highlight of our walks was often watching them interact with the routes and other living creatures – from gum trees to yellow-crested cockatoos.

Wouldn’t it be interesting, I thought while on my Slow Way journey, to explore the ways in which dogs use the routes? I thought it over for some time. Photography would be a lovely way to capture thier journeys. Initially, I thought it might be a nice idea to match the photos with with a series of micro-reviews from the perspective of a dog as told by his or her ‘owner’.

Who is in charge?

(I’m beginning to think many of our pets own us more than we do them. That definitely seems to be the case with our family cat, Meow. “We are here solely to serve you, Meow!” my dad often exclaims, in equal measure smitten and annoyed in response to Meow’s incessant meows when he wants to be let out to the garden or offered snacks!)

The idea of writing reviews from their perspective would involve putting words in a dog’s mouth, which was rightly a contentious one (both with members of the Slow Ways team and with my mum). “Who’s to say what he’s thinking or feeling?”

I agreed.

We were on my local patch today, and I’ve got to say – there’s no place like home! I particularly enjoyed it when we passed through a vast open field – plenty of room to stretch my legs. Along the river, I caught the scent of something that I just could not tear myself away from, and in doing so, I almost fell into the river! That was close… I also had a good sniff around on the other side of the river, but quickly came bounding back as it was almost time for supper!

Cookie’s review written by Jasmine after having followed her on her Slow Ways journey. These reviews were to sit alongside the photographs before we decided to go in a different direction

Rewind to two months prior when I called up Jasmine Pasha about my idea. To my relief, she was equally fascinated by dogs using Slow Ways and enjoyed getting to know dogs. She also loved the idea of creating playful canine reviews through watching a dog on a journey and getting to know them a bit more through developing connections with individual owners. Jasmine spent the next month arranging and carrying out photoshoots with dogs and interviews with dog owners. She captured characterful dogs on their Slow Ways journeys. These wonderful photographs tell a story in and of themselves – they offer us a glimpse into their experience as well as offer dog-walkers an array of exciting and varied routes. Look out for profiles on dogs of Slow Ways – there’s one up already, of Cookie – as well as an exciting interview with Jasmine about her experiences working on the project.

Saira Niazi
For as long as she can remember, Saira's loved wandering around, discovering new places, talking to strangers and recording her adventures. When she was in school she would often bunk off and end up exploring markets, museums, city streets and suburbs. She leads wandering tours, writes, and is Slow Ways' Community Story Lead.

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