It happened again a few days after I brought Charlie, my new cat, home from the rescue league. My friends asked to see pictures.
Reasonable request? Yes.
But as an older pet, age 12, Charlie would have an opinion about cameras.
I grasped this point only recently after one of my friends asked me to shoot some pictures of his new puppy, a Yorkie – like Schmitty The Weather Dog – only twice her size.
Lofton has a face a camera loves. We played on a rug out in the yard. I produced a couple of action shots and a lot of close-ups. He scrunched up his face and looked into the lens every time I called his name.
I looked like a camera genius. My friend took me to lunch.
But I was a fraud. This was Lofton’s first photo shoot, so the little tyke was still in the dark about this rare and foolproof opportunity to demand treats – only the good stuff, all high quality merchandise and plenty of it.
Otherwise, read my lips. No pictures today.
Gabby and Asia and Lucky, my old terrier, had stamped their little paws down from time to time when the still camera – or worse – the video camera appeared.
Oh sure, I could pick them up and stand them on the couch, but they’d have the last word.
Asia liked to yawn.
I used to feel incompetent when my pets balked about a picture. After all, if I were a real photographer, I would know the tricks of the trade. Then a few weeks ago, I happened to read Travels with Casey, by Benoit Denizet-Lewis, about a man, his dog, and a cross-country trip.
In one of their adventures they met up with a professional pet photographer. Casey, a yellow Lab, happened to be a natural in front of a camera, but the pro had her hands full with Rezzy, a stray dog from a Navajo reservation. Rezzy wouldn’t pose at all.
And I couldn’t decide which picture I liked better.
Both captured the moment.
On advice an instructor once gave me I’ve saved all my photos, good or bad, and cringed when I came across the bad ones. But since I saw Casey and Rezzy’s photograph, I better appreciate my own unsuccessful attempts. Sure, most didn’t turn out the way I’d hoped, but they still depict the fine line of character when my pets were being themselves.
Often, I find I can’t remember much about the day I took the good picture, but I can give you a blow-by-blow account of the spring afternoon on Staten Island when Lucky deliberately refused to pose. He was irked because I took the camera on our walk. After waiting all day, he expected to stroll around the park for 45 minutes – walking, not taking pictures. I spoiled his fun, so he spoiled my picture.
Gabby‘s videos just about jumped out of the TV. The first time I saw her on screen — and noticed the Betty Boop eyes — I realized my girl was a star.
But I’m chastened by the still shot of Gabby battened down in the bed covers because she’s decided she’s not going to move.
Message clear. Bring out my toys and take that camera away.
So, how did Charlie react? At first, he took to our first photo session like a little gentleman. When the flash popped, he blinked but didn’t murmur.
I almost stole a great action shot of him leaping onto the kitchen counter. Of course, he thought I had put the camera away.
But I still had the shutter in position.
He pounced. I clicked. He glared at me. Then I heard a funny whirring sound.
Call it a cat’s revenge, but somehow, and I don’t know what happened, that camera’s toast.
Margo Ann Sullivan is a pet columnist who has written for ZooToo, and numerous publications in New York and in New England. She’s had pets all her life, starting with a rescue collie named Lollypop. The Gabby Dog column chases the news that helps pets and people. It also chronicles the adventures of Gabby, the peke-a-poo, and Asia, the tabby cat, and their many pals, hitting the high spots between Providence, RI, and Manchester, NH.