Everyone always asks, how did you figure out you wanted to be a pet photographer, so today, I thought I'd share a story, a tail of two kitties if you will, and how they PAWSPIRED me to become a pet photographer who was also passionate about animal rescue and adoption photos.
It all started in 2009 during a not so bright part of my life. I was feeling alone and far from family, and being single, I decided to get a cat. Of course, I wanted to adopt, so I checked out some local rescue groups in Edmonton where I happened to be at the time (for about 6 months before I ended up deciding Edmonton really wasn't for me - sorry Edmontonians!). They didn't have any of their adoptable pets online let alone a photo of them so they asked if I had any preference as to what type of cat I was looking for. I explained I was single, lived alone and wanted to adopt whoever was having the hardest time finding a forever home. The volunteer on the other end of the phone cried. She knew just the cat for me!
A couple of weeks went by and they finally brought my "surprise" adopted kitty to my home. Her name was Lisa-Lee and she was PUUUURFECT! It was truly love at first meow for us!
Lisa-Lee, they explained had been found abandoned under an abandoned trailer with her kittens and was rather skittish around any other cats and wasn't super keen on men, making her a hard to place girl. She was also 3 years old, or so they guessed at the time. (It ended up, she was far older than even they realized!)
We were the very best of friends and she was just what I needed to start feeling like myself again. I had a small polaroid digital camera at the time and loved taking photos of her funny antics as I leash trained her and our adventures in our tiny Edmonton apartment. It wasn't long before everyone on Facebook I knew was longing to hear more about her crazy adventures!
In the fall of 2009, we made a huge move to Medicine Hat and people thought I was crazy for bringing her with me because it could have been soooo much easier to simply leave her behind, but I had made a promise to her that she was a forever cat and by my side, she would always stay.
In October of 2009, I decided maybe Lisa-Lee would like some feline company. So I talked to many vets and cat behaviorists and asked about her peculiarity when it came to being around other cats. The rescue had told me that she would sit on top of the fridge at the foster home and wouldn't eat or drink with the other cats, so I was a little concerned. That, however, ended up being more of a number of cats issue than simply being around any cats issue. After discussing and researching, I was advised to maybe get a kitten or as young a cat as I could adopt and maybe her mothering instinct would kick in and that could alleviate any possible issues. So, off to the Medicine Hat SPCA, I went in search of a BFF for my special girl.
When I arrived I found out that the kitten wing was closed due to ringworm, and I admit, I was greatly disappointed, but the volunteers encouraged me to walk around the cat rooms and see if maybe there was a 1-year old that maybe fit the bill? I was keen on that idea because kittens are always easier to adopt out and older cats, have a much harder time.
After scouring and re-lapping through the first 2 rooms, while finding many ADORABLE cats, I just couldn't find THE ONE. That's when the volunteers asked if I checked the 3rd room! Third Room!? I went in and it was love at first paw! I saw Poly-ana in her kennel squinting her eyes at me and she came right up to me without hesitation. I giggled at her name, Poly because she was a polydactyl and went out to the volunteers and asked if I could bring her out and see how we got on together. Poly-ana sat right on my lap purring with ease and contentment and when I asked if she wanted to come home with me, she lifted her mittened paw and put it on my lips to share her agreement and we've been BFF's ever since.
I had to wait a couple weeks so she could be spayed and it was a long wait it seemed. While I was waiting, I found a photo of her online to share with friends and family (see the photo below) and promised everyone she was FAR more cute and adorable than her photo!
During our time and adventures in Medicine Hat, I found I really loved taking photos of my two girls and of pets of other friends I'd met along the way too, including horses, dogs, and other cats too. I was grateful an amazing photographer took me under her wing and helped me when I purchased my first DSLR and was so incredibly eager to learn how I could best capture images of people's furkids. I was passionate about it not only because of my own two girls but in remembering past pets from my childhood, many of which I had no photos of, which broke my heart. I wanted to make sure no one else had to endure similar heartbreak. So off I went to learn and glean and grow.
As I grew I found out that pet adoption photos were something many rescues were in DESPERATE need of and not only did it help them, it helped me get in needed practice as well as helping them get some decent photos of their adoptable animals. I still remember my first rescue session with SOS Rescue in Medicine Hat - they were so incredible and still are! They do amazing work helping very specifically SENIOR pets and less adoptable pets find amazing homes.
It was then that I recalled Poly-ana's not so hot adoption photo and that Lisa-Lee didn't even have one and I realized that was a great way I could help these amazing animals! It was also the time I found out about Hearts Speak! I have to admit, I followed them for a long time before I joined as an artist member, mostly out of lack of confidence.
We had many adventures after that moving from Medicine Hat to Sechelt where we met some more amazing pet owners whos special memories I captured and finally moving to Abbotsford where I was able to start helping more and more rescue animals, big and small, by capturing their amazing personalities helping them become adopted.
In January 2015, I was beyond thrilled to become a Hearts Speak Artist member, helping to photograph many amazing pets up for adoption, mainly Horses and dogs but occasionally a few felines as well. I have loved every second of it and it was all because of my two amazing feline fur-kids pawspiring me to capture beautiful moments and help amazing fur-kids find their happy tails, just like they had.
Sadly in August 2017, we lost our sweet Lisa-Lee when she crossed the rainbow bridge at ... 16+ years old!!!! What?! Now if you're not a math wizard, that of course doesn't add up. In 2009 she was 3, so by 2017 (we thought) she was 11 years old...but when I took her in to the vet, we were told that she was 99% sure that our sweet girl was actually a minimum of 16 years old, making her 8 when I adopted her not 3! WOW! What a surprise! However, despite being at the rainbow bridge, her story and her spirit keeps inspiring me right along side Poly-ana to keep following my passion and bliss and helping amazing rescue pets find their homes too along the way.
Poly-ana grieved for her BFF in her own way, as did Ozzy. Since she's passed away, Poly-ana has become much more vocal and adventurous too!
Last year we made the big move from the big city, where Poly has always lived and been a city apartment dwelling feline to the tiny not so citylike town of Port Alice where her and Ozzy love spending time on the deck watching the whales and strolling out to the greenhouse together when I go tend the garden. They even snooze together in the grass while waiting for me to finish and RACE back to the house (and let me tell you it is the funniest thing ever to watch!).
It's hard to believe we have been an amazing team for 11 years and going strong and I cannot imagine my world without her smiling face and multi-toed paws touching my face and wrapping around my arms while I watch a movie at night. It sure has been an incredible journey so far and I cannot wait to see where it takes us next!
So there you have it, our little love story, and how these two amazing felines helped inspire me to become a pet photographer who is also very passionate about photographing adoptable fur-kids to help them find their happy tails! What's your love story?! I'd love to hear it!