But despite their fame and features everywhere from ABC News to Animal Planet, no one has quite captured these celebrity canines the way Mica Ringo, aka The Dog Photographer, can. While all eyes were on the dogs hopping or skateboarding down the red carpet at the Sky Ball X Gala, Ringo was in the background quietly snapping images that showed off the dogs’ true personalities and spirits.
Ringo, a longtime dog lover and parent to two Labradors, was tapped to shoot the event by Bob Vincent, president of Orchard Group Productions, who helped manage Sky Ball. Vincent stumbled on Ringo’s portfolio when he saw her submission for an online contest with American Airlines, the title sponsor for Sky Ball X. The 60-second video of her work illustrated how the airline helps her business make connections, since she regularly travels to New York, Miami, and San Francisco to photograph clients.
“Mica’s talent for shooting photos of dogs was obvious from her portfolio. The Airpower Foundation has grown the annual Sky Ball over the last decade to attract national attention, and it was important that we find the right person to show off the best sides of our canine service friends,” said Vincent.
Ringo’s shots of the pups standing proud on a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter before the awards ceremony are charming and endearing, but knowing the dog’s stories makes them poignant.
Lucca is a bouncing Belgian Malinois who was part of an elite corps of working military dogs trained to sniff out ammunition, arms, and explosives in Iraq and Afghanistan.
During a March 2012 patrol of Afghanistan’
Marine Cpl. Juan Rodriguez, Lucca’s companion, was by her side in an instant. He applied first aid and a tourniquet, but her wounds resulted in the loss of her front left leg. Officials said Lucca saved countless lives on her 400 patrols, during which she uncovered 40 confirmed explosives.
Lucca’s service and unofficial Marine mascot status has earned her sunnier days, including a new life with former trainer and tour companion Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Willingham, head of security for the U.S. Embassy in Finland and a dad with two kids who love dogs.
Retired life has still been busy for Lucca, who recently attended the Sky Ball gala. Sponsored by American Airlines, DFW International Airport, and Bell Helicopter, the annual event hosted special guests including “We Were Soldiers” actor Greg Kinnear and, of course, Lucca and Tillman.
Tillman, the multi-boarding bulldog, was by Luca’s side during the gala, rocketing down the red carpet on his skateboard clad in a custom military jacket. The 60-pound canine wonder endured a weeklong doggie boot camp to become an honorary Private First Class Marine at the gala. During the award ceremony, Lucca is the picture perfect heroine and Tillman is a proud, solemn new solider. Both dogs behaved gracefully and looked to their owners for cues.
Ringo captured these bright memories on the red carpet, but her portraits of the pups in quiet moments just outside the limelight are the ones that let their true personalities shine. Before the awards ceremony, Lucca poses on the red carpet with Willingham, Rodriguez, and actor Greg Kinnear. Her stance, arched eyebrows, and lolling tongue might as well be a bright smile. Another shot shows Lucca peeking through a window of the CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter just above a single word emblazoned significantly below: Rescue.
During Lucca’s week in Dallas with Willingham, she also took in some well-deserved R&R at Paradise 4 Paws, a premier pet resort. The resort treated her to a special play session, treats, and spa bath.
Ringo’s shots show Lucca romping like a puppy with Willingham, leaping out of the indoor splash pool, wiggling herself silly as she shakes dry, and beaming under the cover of a bright yellow towel after she steps out of the pool. With the towel covering her lost leg, she looks like any other carefree dog.
“Dogs are wonderfully complex and expressive creatures, and that’s part of what makes them so fun and fascinating to photograph. Tillman is a daredevil who loves to ride. Lucca has been through so much, and it was incredible to capture both her honorable Marine side at the ceremonies as well as her playful canine side at Paradise 4 Paws. Looking at the photos from the pet resort, you would never know what she had been through because she just radiates joy and an exuberant love of life,” said Ringo.
For more information, visit www.thedogphotographer.com.
About The Dog Photographer
Mica Ringo, aka The Dog Photographer, is a master at the art of transforming a simple snapshot into a piece of art that perfectly captures a pet’s vivid personality. Ringo is your best friend’s photographer and knows just how to document every dog’s individuality and enthusiasm for life.
Ringo’s television background lends her eye a special focus when creating pet portraits. Her former career as a television producer includes the Dallas Community College District where she worked on “Transforming America: U.S. History Since 1877,” AMS Production Group where she helped create “Art of Living Gallery” and animal show “Natural Companions,”
The Dog Photographer is based in Dallas, but because Ringo loves to travel, she also regularly visits New York, Miami, and San Francisco to shoot canine clients.
For more information, visit www.thedogphotographer.com.
About The Airpower Foundation
The Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit with its roots dating back to 1958, when Air Force General Curtis LeMay and businessman/
The mission of the Airpower Foundation has grown since the first Gulf War and is now a nationwide program dedicated to supporting active duty, reserve and National Guard families. Airpower also supports projects to assist wounded warriors, veterans of previous wars and education projects like WWII Freedom Flights to make sure the next generation understands the honor and sacrifice of wearing the cloth of this country.
For more information, visit www.airpowerfoundation.com and www.skyballinfo.com.