Courtney walked downstairs with a scarf draped around her neck and was greeted with a look of horror on her Mum's face. "Oh no!" Wendy exclaimed. "You're wearing a pattern - that's against the rules!"
I have to admit that we all laughed at her (sorry Wendy!) Such attention to fashion seemed out of place in Wendy's bubbly, down to earth personality, but she was right. I had sent her a list of outfit advice, but rules are meant to be broken and damn it if that scarf didn't look perfect! Wendy didn't know it yet, but she would soon learn that in front of my camera there is no need to fret about what you look like. The beauty in family portraits with your pets doesn't come from forced smiles or matching poses (or non-patterned scarves :) ) - it comes from capturing moments of pure joy, love and happiness.
"I would say that my style is very similar to yours! That's why I love your work so much. I love the vintage-looking portraits and I definitely prefer relaxed, natural photographs to posed, formal ones . . . " ~ Wendy
With four gorgeous "children" (Monique, Courtney, Aimee and Adam) and three spoilt furkids (Daisy, Alfie and Hamish) and one gorgeous mama (Wendy), we definitely had a full shoot on our hands! I have to admit that I was torn - I wanted to make sure I dedicated plenty of time for family portraits and to make sure everyone had portraits with the dogs, but I didn't want to risk the furry ones getting "concentration fatigue" too early.
There are no time limits during a Ragamuffin Pet Photography session, but I do find that after 2 hours or so my furry clients tend to decide that it's snoozing time! Rather than risk using all their energy up just with family portraits before we could get onto focusing solely on Daisy, Alfie and Hamish, I decided to split their session over two afternoons. I'm so glad we did, because I very quickly discovered that the Slevisons are SO MUCH FUN! We spent the entire time laughing hysterically (it's nice to meet people with the same warped sense of humour as me ;) )
Daisy had me wrapped around her furry finger from the get go. She's a human dog - that probably won't make sense to non-doggy people, but it's the only real way to describe a human dog (my Lyra bear is a human dog, too). She is sweet, kind, gentle, funny and totally devoted. She looks at you with eyes that understand. The Slevisons found Daisy at Pet's Haven Animal Shelter. Earlier that year, they had lost their first dog Toby George. As a family they decided that they wanted to rescue a dog in his honour.
Wendy contacted Pet's Haven, waiting for a small dog to become available. One thing you need to know about Wendy is that her heart is an endless well of love, kindness and generosity. She is a total animal lover (she works for Urban Paws, a Melbourne dog walking/pet sitting business) and she made me feel instantly welcome and comfortable - like I had known their family for years. The very first time I met her, Wendy had vegan cupcakes for Johnny and I, and an Easter doggy biscuit for Lyra! It's no surprise to me that she offered to foster for Pet's Haven while they waited for their little dog to come along. The shelter called her almost immediately with two little pups in desperate need of a foster carer (click here to find out more about foster caring).
Daisy and her sister Scout went to stay with the Slevisons. After only a week, Scout got sick with Parvo and passed away. The family was devastated, and Wendy still choked up telling me the story. Their vet told them that Daisy would probably die too, but there was no way on Earth this family was going to give up on her. They scrubbed the house from top to bottom, cleaning like they had never cleaned before! Daisy survived and there was no question that she was going to be part of the family. A big, cuddly, silly Rhodesian Ridgeback X, she is a far cry from the little white dog that they had intended to adopt but she turned out to be the perfect fit!
"We saved her and she was never leaving us after that. She is the sweetest, gentlest soul and now I love big dogs so much! I can't imagine life without her . . ."
Alfie is a funny, eccentric old man. When he was just a puppy his furbrother Harry was killed by another dog right in front of Alfie, and he was never the same after that. He didn't grow any more, and he's a rather anxious little soul. But despite his nerves, Alfie would do anything for his family.
Alfie once saved his brother Toby George (the one who preceded Daisy). Wendy was preparing dinner on a summer night, when little Alfie started to bark incessently. She stopped chopping carrots to have a look around, but nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary. Frowning, she returned to the kitchen, but then Alfie started barking again! He's not a yappy dog, so Wendy followed him downstairs to see what was causing his distress. Alfie had led her right to the swimming pool, where she saw that old, blind Toby had fallen in and was desperately attemping to hold his head above the water! She ran into the pool and scooped him up into her arms.
"I couldn't believe that it was our little Alfie, the most timid of all dogs, who was so determined to raise the alarm. I have never forgotten how amazing he was to keep trying to alert me until I realised the problem. Alfie is many things, but number one in my eyes is HERO."
It's difficult to sum up Hamish in a few words. When I first met him, he didn't want a piece of me. Daisy practically threw herself onto me and Alfie pranced around with his little bouncy ears, but Hamish watched from a distance, under the kitchen chair. That's okay ~ every dog is different and I suspected that with time he would see that this new strange lady was actually a treat-dispensing, praise lathering, fun-times-guaranteed kinda human. Once he worked that out, oh boy you should've seen this boy pose!
Wendy brought Hamish home to help heal the family's pain after losing Harry. Hamish was the polar opposite to Alfie. Like a fluffy whirlwind of excitement, he quickly made their house his home. He healed their sadness, but they came to learn that Hamish is a complex little man. He took a year to accept Daisy into his home, growling everytime she came near him for a year. Then one day he mysteriously resigned himself to the fact that she was there to stay, and now they are best buddies (not that he'd ever admit that!)
"He's very bold and self-important, and hates for you to suspect that he actually loves or needs you. He's bumptious and anxious at the same time, and takes far too much responsibility on his little white shoulders. We keep telling him that he doesn't have to look after all of us all the time, but he honestly thinks it's his job to protect the household from the invasion of terrible passersby."
"Thank you so much Caitlin. That was so much fun! We haven't done a family thing like that since the kids were younger and their Dad was still with us.
It meant so much to me to do this some day, and it was when I saw your work that I knew you were our photographer. You're awesome and I'm so glad we've finally met! x" ~ Wendy
I apologise for the overly verbose blogpost, but I really can't sum up how I feel about this family in a sentence or two. I feel so deeply grateful that my job has introduced me to such a wonderfully kind, understanding, patient and caring person. I'm truly blessed to count Wendy as a friend and I would have never even met her if it wasn't for Ragamuffin Pet Photography.
Thank you for everything.