As you know from my usual portraits, I generally use a "portrait background" on my paintings. Part of this is that I think the portrait background emphasizes and brings out the pet better. Part of this is that my reference photos are often in less than romantic settings, like car seats, or the kitchen floor. So I avoid those realistic backgrounds to get a better portrait that brings out the pet best.
Then, there are times when the background is really important to the feeling of the painting, and there is a good reference photo. When that happens, I'm happy to do the realistic background.
In the case of Ella, I had both. The back porch was her favorite spot to sit and keep watch on her territory. And it was important for my clients, because that was also where they hung out with her. So with the emotional connection of the background, I did the porch with the door and window. I really think this made the painting much better, and really puts Ella in her world, and the world of her people.
This was a present, given to the recipient over the weekend. It was a memorial, and I understand there were tears. I'm always open for commissions, so let me know if I can paint for your. Thanks, and enjoy.