In the 2020 Capitals Canine Calendar, you will see 12 months of Washington ice hockey players posing with dogs of all sizes, ages and bark levels. The animals appear well behaved, like professional fur models, but don’t let their perfectly poised paws fool you. There was plenty of four-legged mischief during the October shoot at the MedStar Capitals Iceplex in Arlington.
“JJ, don’t jump out of the car!” said Sue Bell, who founded Homeward Trails Animal Rescue and provided rescue animals for the event. Calendar sales help raise money for the organization.
Bell prevented the three-legged pit bull mix from escaping the vintage red convertible, but she wasn’t quick enough to stop Cayde from hopping out of the front seat. The dog landed on the ground like a gold-medal gymnast but was quickly scooped up and returned to the car.
Meanwhile, puppies named after Harry Potter characters squirmed like fat worms in the back seat. The 5-week-olds were wriggling with excitement during their first outing away from home.
“Cool it, puppies,” Bell begged. “Please chill.”
To grab the dogs’ attention, photographer Virgil Ocampo relied on several tricks up his sleeve — and on his wrist, including a polka-dot toy he wears like a bracelet.
“We use different squeaks and high-pitched sounds,” he said. “We shake keys, clap our hands, knock on doors and sometimes do the ‘Macarena’.”
While the photo crew waited for goaltender Braden Holtby to shower after morning practice, Ocampo took pictures of Captain, the 11-week-old service dog the Caps are helping train. Captain chased a bouquet of stuffed roses thrown by his trainer. He brought the flowers to Ocampo, who was lying on the ground with his gear. But instead of dropping off the gift and wagging for the camera, the chunky puppy stepped on Ocampo’s face and covered his cheeks with sloppy kisses.
Tom Wilson, the Capitals right wing who has appeared in the calendar since 2014, knows that one of the quickest ways to win over a dog is through his tummy.
“I had a handful of treats,” he said, “and then a handful of slobber.”
With more than 30 dogs on the scene, accidents happened, and so did belly rubs. After her shoot with left wing player Jakub Vrana, a Puerto Rico rescued dog named Maria dropped onto her back and kicked up her legs like a flipped-over beetle.
The dogs were also thoughtful. Before pairing up with Evgeny Kuznetsov, Olivia, an American bulldog mix, vacuumed up the crumbs in the parking lot by eating them. Elijah gave Dmitry Orlov a quick facial cleanse with his big pink tongue.
“I think we got the shot, right?” asked Orlov, wiping his face.
For the last photo of the day, Capitals center Nic Dowd tried to calm his golden retriever, Arlo, who was fidgeting. Dowd tried snacks and ear scratches, but nothing worked. So he pulled out his secret weapon: a tennis ball. He showed the round object to Arlo, then wrapped his fingers around it, hiding it from the lens. Arlo stared at his owner’s hand and froze in place like a statue. Ocampo snapped away. As soon as he finished, Dowd chucked the ball across the parking lot. Arlo raced after it, clearly happy to be a playful puppy — and not a working dog — again.