Perhaps they start with the weakest point, the eyes or the squeaker. In the end, it’s always the same: The toy is reduced to a shredded, matted, disemboweled memory.


This project began out of frustration. Every cute (expensive) toy I brought home for my dogs ended in a mangled mess destined for the landfill. I decided to photograph the toys in their pristine shape, then again months later, observing this savage demolition with the scrutiny of an anthropologist.


Each dog seemed to have its own technique. Murray, my senior Boston terrier, always removed the eyes first. Annie, my other terrier, slobbered her toys to death, while Oscar the Newfoundland buried his, and Cole the boxer-Lab mix opted for complete obliteration.


The length of time between the “before” and “after” shots also depended on the dog. My dogs took their time — from a few weeks to a year — to really leave their marks on their toys. To add variety, I recruited friends’ dogs. They all were pretty quick about it. One large hound mix, Tico, dismantled his precious stuffed octopus in minutes.


I found that within each well-loved, destroyed toy was a portrait of a dog’s style and individuality. And a reminder of the wolf within.


Hannele Lahti is a photographer based in Manassas, Va., specializing in dogs and the natural environment. www.adogphotographer.com[adogphotographer.com]