Merlin, a deaf 14-year-old Podenco rescue dog, is the star of this year's winning photo for The Kennel Club's Dog Photographer of the Year contest.
Photographed by Denise Czichocki from Switzerland, "Dreaming Merlin" was the overall winner in the competition, as well as the top photo in the Oldies category.
"It wasn’t easy to take photos of him because of his absolutely deafness. So I couldn’t work with noises to get his attention...afterwards it wasn’t necessary," Czichocki writes. "He gave me so many beautiful moments as you can see in this picture. This is Merlin, beautiful, dreamy and kind of wise. A wonderful old dog with so much charisma."
In its 14th year, the U.K.-based competition received nearly 7,000 entries from more than 70 countries, including the U.S., Brazil, Canada, China, Russia, Australia and New Zealand.
Here are the winners in all the categories in the 2019 event.
Weimaraner puppies Macy and Vino kept attracting the interest of bystanders during their photo session, says photographer Monica van der Maden of the Netherlands. They were the dynamic duo featured in "The Little Twins," the winning photo in the Puppies category.
"It can be very difficult to photograph two puppies together let alone a whole litter of puppies especially in a shopping mall," van der Maden writes. "Everyone wanted to pet the puppies because they were so sweet and adorable."
But when the two puppies got together, they started to wash each other and magic (and a bath) happened.
Assistance Dogs and Dog Charities
Angelika Elendt of Germany won in the Assistance Dogs and Dog Charities category with "Soul comforter," featuring mixed breed rescue dog Lilly. Lilly was visiting a woman with depression and dementia in a retirement home.
"Towards the end of the visit, Lilly was put on her lap and suddenly the lady woke up from her lethargy: She started stroking the little dog and bent her head down to it. Whereupon Lilly raised her head and pressed it to her cheek for a little while – a very touching and heartfelt moment which I managed to capture in my picture," Elendt writes.
"Lilly managed to get through to this old lady, who was beforehand always experienced as lethargic and utterly disinterested in social interactions. This once again shows the very special connection between dogs and human beings."
Dogs at Play
Waylon the Australian shepherd was bounding toward photographer Monica van der Maden, splashing mud along the way. The artfully muddy action shot is the winner in the Dogs at Play category.
"I wanted to make something different instead of beautiful and clean dog portraits," van der Maden writes. "I searched for a dog that loved to play in the mud … and yes Waylon loved it, and what I also wanted to achieve is to make people smile when they see this picture. I also can tell you that Waylon wasn’t the only one that was dirty that day ... the owner Petra and I were also very dirty that day!"
Dogs at Work
Dorine Scherpel of Canada took this winning photo in the Dogs at Work category with her phone. Called "The loyal co-workers," it features Sam and Laddie, two working collies she met on a country lane in England.
"To me this image portrays all you expect of a country dog’s life on a working farm. Their eagerness, their innocence and the way they so happily go wherever they may be needed makes them men’s best co-workers," Scherpel writes.
"I am not a photographer by profession but rather passionate baker. This photograph was solely taken to bring joy to my friends at home as I was exploring the beauty of the English countryside which I have loved all my life almost as much as dogs. I enrolled this photo in the competition not to win but simply to share with others as I am sure the scene will warm many hearts as it did mine."
Man's Best Friend
The Man's Best Friend category highlights the special bond between people and dogs. Photographer Cat Race of the U.K. captures Inka, a Munsterlander, and her person, Annie-May. In "Connected," the pair had just finished tossing tennis balls and paused to take a break.
"As they sat on the bank with sparkling bright light reflecting off the water behind them, I knew there was something so universal about the unspoken bond between a little girl and her dog," Race writes. "It was for this reason that in that moment I decided to make the portrait of them a silhouette — a faceless image that represents a bond felt not only by Annie-May and Inka but also by a whole ton of dog lovers across the globe. That warm fuzzy feeling that rises up when we reach out and pat our furry friends is undeniably one of the best feelings in the world."
Anastasia Vetkovskaya of Russia won first place in the Portrait category with this photo of Jozelin the saluki called "Honey saluki."
"I love working with sighthounds! They are beautiful dogs but it’s not always easy to find an approach to them. Toys and treats — usual props of any animal photographer — are rather useless with these creatures. Each time I should come up with a new idea to make it work with particular dog," Vetkovskaya writes.
"This shot was taken in a wonderful August morning with one experienced model of mine...We arrived to location to found out that the field was all harvested. We had to look for another location very quickly. Luckily we’ve found another field! I like how attentive look of the pet owner’s eyes gave this shot a special feeling."
Rescue Dogs and Dog Charities
In the competition's newest category, Rescue Dogs and Charities, Anne Geier of Austria wins for "Finntastic."
"This photo shows my own dog Finn. I took the photo during our holiday in the Dolomites last year," she wrties. "We rescued Finn from Rumania in 2014. Since that time he fills our life with so much love. I never met another dog who has the same patience and calmness. He is such a lovely dog ... and I always hope that all the people can feel his special power through my photos of him.
Young Pup Photographer
Sabine Wolpert, 11, of California won the Young Pup Photographer category for photographers age 11 and under. Her winning entry is called "Sea Dog" and stars her Havenese, Georgie.
"I wanted a dog for as long as I can remember and on my 7th birthday I got the puppy I’d been waiting for, Georgie," Sabine writes. "I started getting into photography when I was nine. I love capturing moments especially moments with Georgie. This photo is a perfect example. I took this picture on a beach near my home. Georgie had been running around. She brought a clump of seaweed to me and I put it on her head. I expected her to shake it off but she seemed to like it so I took her picture."
I Love Dogs Because
Young photographers age 12 to 17 compete in the I Love Dogs Because category. This year's winner is 12-year-old Mariah Mobley of Oregon. Her photo "Doggy Bed Time" features one of her dogs, Koby, a miniature pinscher/Lhasa apso mix.
"I have always loved animals, especially dogs, because they are so sweet, cuddly, and always happy to see you. I started taking pictures when I was a very little girl, and have loved it ever since," she writes. "Taking photos of Koby is extra fun because he is my mom's trick dog, so he knows lots, and lots of cool tricks, and loves to pose for the camera. He is really fun to play with too, we even do handstands together. He is a very sweet little love bug, who I love very much."
She added, "I took this photo of Koby in my living room. I used a black cloth backdrop, and my mom helped pose Koby for me and also held the reflector. I took lots of photos of him holding his toy while wrapped in his blanket. This one was my very favorite."