‘Ruff’ out there: photographer, puppies explore online dating scene

When Leesburg-based photographer Kathy Kupka entered the online dating scene as a 69-year-old widow, it was an eye-opening experience.

Kupka documents the ups and downs of the online dating scene using her favorite subject: dogs. Her new “Online Dating is Ruff” photo book is a tongue-in-cheek look at the vocabulary and pitfalls of online dating, featuring many cute puppies.

“It’s not for the faint of heart,” Kupka said of her 10-month foray into the world of online dating. But his experiences gave him a lot of fodder for a charming and hilarious guide.

When Kupka lost her beloved husband Rich (her “Mr. Wonderful”) to cancer in 2012, she waited seven years before questioning herself.

“I always said I didn’t have to go out with me anymore. I have a big family, I have a lot of friends. I don’t need to take a chance, ”Kupka said.

But the young widow realized that she lacked company and someone to share her favorite activities like dinner and dancing. With encouragement from her sister and brother-in-law, she decided to give online dating a try. But she found she had no idea how to get started. With the help of a friend who became her online dating mentor, she created her profile.

“I had no idea and she knew the ropes,” Kupka said.

Kupka tried seven different dating sites in 10 months and discovered a steep learning curve. She’s had good conversations, but also a lot of not-so-good dates.

“After my first two bad experiences, my friend said, ‘We’re doing a book,'” Kupka said.

This friend, Jeanette Burkle, is the designer and editor of the book.

Kupka said she quickly learned to meet for coffee on the first date, which gave her the opportunity to keep it short if necessary.

“If you’re going to have dinner for lunch, you’re stuck for an hour or two,” she said.

At the end of the day, Kupka has found plenty of fodder for her book, which cleverly matches the expressions and poses of her canine subjects with the subject in question. “Online Dating Is Ruff” offers an introduction to dating lingo, including Cat Fishing (create a fake ID to scam) and Dog Fishing (use someone else’s dog in your profile picture, yes, that’s one thing). There is also the ghosting (cutting off communication without explanation) and the zombies which make a surprise return from the dead after the ghosting.

Kathy Kupka and her dog Sandra pose in the photography studio of their home in Leesburg. Renss Greene / Loudoun now

Kupka intelligently tackles the topics of profile photos and the outright exaggerations and lies that are often found in dating profiles. To create the book, Kupka used some photos she had in her portfolio and others she took especially for this project, carefully matching the puppies to the theme, including hilarious and downcast pugs. Parents of dogs have of course signed model permissions.

Kupka launched her career as a photographer in 1998 after a long career as an administrative assistant in the corporate world. She said her late husband, Rich, had encouraged her to follow her passion and that she enrolled in photography classes at Northern Virginia Community College. She started with family and child shoots, but turned to dogs in the early 2000s after having her beloved cockapoo Buddy.

Shortly after starting a thriving photo business, Kupka was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. After beating the cancer, she started giving presentations on what to expect for cancer patients. To add some humor to her speeches, she added photos of dogs to her discussion of the side effects of the treatment.

“Everyone laughed,” she said. And that was the origin of his first book, “Cancer Is Ruff”, which has since sold 1,400 copies.

Kupka, who lives in Leesburg with her mix Catahoula Sandra, said she approached dating in her 60s with a different attitude than her dating years as a younger woman.

“I have more confidence in myself now and if someone doesn’t like me fine,” she said.

Kupka adds that the guys she met online weren’t always nightmares or crooks. Sometimes there just wasn’t a connection, and that’s okay.

“I met some nice people for coffee, but sometimes he knew or I knew there was no connection,” she said.

And after 10 months, as she was about to throw in the towel, she found romance and camaraderie with her partner from last year.

“He’s a good cook and he’s ready to dance,” she says. “We have a lot of fun and we laugh a lot.”

Kupka has some tips for online daters of all ages.

“I’ve learned that if someone is nice you should give them a chance,” she said.

As a professional photographer, Kupka added that putting a little effort into your profile photos is always worth it. And at the end of the day, giving a date a chance is 100% worth it.

“Definitely give it a try. I don’t look back and think, ‘Oh, I never should have done that.’ You definitely meet some interesting people,” she said. “It was an adventure. . “

Kathy Kupka’s “Online Dating is Ruff” and original greeting cards are available at local retailers including Vintage Magnolia in Purcellville and Leesburg, Etc! Round Hill and the Gateway Gallery in Round Hill. The book is also available on Amazon.com.

For more information on Kupka and her books, visit kathykupkaphotography.com.

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