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'Underwater Dogs' leap, splash, swim into your heart

Wednesday - 10/24/2012, 3:46pm  ET

BUSTER_CavalierKingCharlesSpaniel_6years.jpg
Buster, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel that started it all - 6 years old (Courtesy Seth Casteel)
  • Gallery: (8 images)

Alicia Lozano, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - When it comes to tennis balls, dogs just can't help themselves. Whether on land or in the water, man's best friend must retrieve the little green thing at any cost.

Enter animal photographer Seth Casteel, whose underwater canine photography has become a global sensation.

It all started about two years ago with a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Buster. Casteel thought he and the playful canine were in for a day of "on land" portraits, but Buster just couldn't get enough of the pool. He kept diving in and emerging as a totally different looking dog.

An idea struck Casteel.

"I didn't have an underwater camera with me, but I kept watching him jump in over and over again and just wondered 'What did he look like under there?'" he says. "I thought 'You know what? Maybe the best way to do this is from underneath the water.'"

So Casteel went out, purchased a waterproof point-and-shoot camera and never looked back.

This kicked off a series of photos that eventually became "Underwater Dogs," a new book that features more than 80 portraits of aquatic canines.

Casteel uses all sorts of tricks to get dogs into the pool, but none of them can resist the all powerful tennis ball.

"Some of these dogs ... had never been swimming before they met me," he says. "The challenge for me, always, has been to become friends with each dog and show them that the pool is actually a fun place."

The animal rights activist uses a combination of private and hydrotherapy pools for his subjects. The resulting images are filled with flapping jowls, wagging tongues and bulging eyeballs. Some of the photos look more like deep sea creatures, but that hasn't stopped people from falling in love with the portraits.

"That's why I was drawn to this series. I am very passionate about the emotions of dogs - their range of emotions and how similar they are to human beings," he says. "I think the water is one of the best ways I know how to showcase [that]."

Casteel's book can be found on Amazon.com, but he is also available for hire if your dog is eager for a dip. Check out his website for more information, but be ready to wait - 3,000 people are already on the wait list.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)