Not many people know this, but I recently made the transition to full time pet photographer earlier this year. I never really mentioned it because I was scared that if I ended up failing, I would have to put up with the shame and embarrassment of people telling me, “I told you so. That’s what you get for trying to pursue a career in the arts.” (My previous position was sensible and lucrative). The other part of me didn’t tell people because honestly at the time, I had not emotionally fully committed to this path; I was still considering the idea of going back to a new job.
The truth is, I’ve been contemplating this decision for a good year and a half. I first entertained the thought in January 2015 and immediately felt the need to puke. And for the next ten months after every time I thought about making the leap. I was absolutely terrified.
I’m not going to lie, the first month of not “working” was really rough. I slept a lot. Whether it was from exhaustion built up from building my business on the side over these past five years (aka go to work during the day, work on business during the evenings and weekends), or from depression of not seeing my co-workers who felt like family to me, I don’t know. It was probably a mixture of both. All I knew was suddenly I had a lot of time on my hands, and no idea of what to do with it. I mean, I did have a plan of how I wanted to grow my business, but I didn’t feel like working on any of it.
I’ve photographed many rescues during the time I’ve been doing pet photography (having long lost count), but I have never fostered–mostly due to my non-existent free time with my insane work schedule. But I first started thinking about it when I did some photos in 2015 for an amazing local rescue, P.O.E.T Animal Rescue.
Now that I suddenly had all this free time, I thought maybe I should try fostering a dog, and that’s how I ended up with Zelda. I was looking at the FB group posts when I saw a photo of her and volunteered. I remembered picking her up from the vet, and on the drive home, wondered what the heck I got myself into. I have never had a dog (ironic I know, because I photograph so many), so after doing all this research, I was like crap, this is going to be so much work. So much responsibility.
Which is exactly what I needed. Fostering Zelda got me back into a routine, a schedule, and she got me out of the house. She gave me a reason to meet and talk with neighbors and strangers that I would normally avoid (mostly due to my social anxiety). Instead of me laying around listlessly on the couch wondering what I was doing with my life, I had a purpose again.
Making the decision to give her up was probably one of the hardest things I ever had to do. Without intending to, I had fallen in love with her. Realistically though, I knew I couldn’t keep her (while not exactly endorsed, foster parents do get priority in adoption, so this is a great way to see if a potential dog is a good fit for you and your family). I had saved enough money to get me through a year, but I hadn’t factored in the expenses of owning a dog. Knowing dogs, they’re bound to get into things, etc, and I just didn’t have that type of extra cash laying around. Knowing that I no longer had steady income, an unpredictable year of business ahead of me, and not knowing where I’ll be in the next year, I knew Zelda deserved a stable home with a family that would be around to walk and give her lots of love and attention.
Looking back on these photos of Zelda was hard. Finally finishing her photos and putting together this book of her was hard. I put them off for the past seven months. She’s seriously the sweetest, smartest, prettiest, and most well-balanced dog that I have ever met, and all I could think about was how I wish I could have kept her (and still do).
You’re probably wondering why I’m sharing this. Well, for one, I believe if you have the room and time, you should go foster. It may be one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do, but it’s also the most rewarding; you’ll save an animal’s life, and who knows, it might save yours, too.
Second, as the last day of 2016 comes to a close, I wanted to share something personal in return to everyone else who has opened up to me about their stories and their pets. Zelda was a catalyst for me, and in a way, proved to me how much I really care and love what I do, even if it’s neither “logical” or “safe”. She brought me to my senses when I needed it the most, and in return, this unexpectedly ended up being one of my most successful years yet. In 2016, I did 66 client sessions–up from 29 last year; photographed 215 pets including 178 dogs, 25 cats, 5 rabbits, 4 ferrets, 2 guinea pigs, and one turtle; and donated over $3000 in services and monetary form to local rescues and non-animal charities in our community.
While I’m not quite sure where I’ll be in the second half of next year, I wanted to give a deep, heartfelt thanks to all of my clients who have trusted me to photograph their furbaes, to those that have given me a helping hand (either indirectly or directly), and to everyone else that has been following me on this journey. Thank you for helping to make 2016 such a memorable year, and wishing each and every one of you a very joyful and prosperous new year!!
Zelda’s Photobook: https://issuu.com/katkuphotography/docs/zelda