Today marks a sad anniversary – it was exactly one year ago that we said good-bye to our Ripley. It was a bright, sunny spring morning, much like this one. But for Dean and I, it was the end of an era.
It seems like yesterday that the three of us made that last car ride together. In fact, we still tear up when we think about him, as the pain is yet just below the surface. But, in reality, a whole year has passed and I realize that so much has changed since then.
For one thing, there is no doubt that the sharp pain has eased for all of us. We no longer come through the front door expecting to have Ripley greet us, nor do I wake up in the night looking for the feel of his soft weight against my legs. Lady Jane, too, finally stopped grieving for her brother and began to be her old self again. And, as I always secretly knew, we were in time, ready for the biggest change of all. We welcomed 2 year old Baxter into our home and into our hearts. (One the unexpected results was that, as a result of the new playmate and the increased physical activity, Lady Jane has lost some weight. She now runs and just a few weeks ago, managed to jump on the dresser in our bedroom – a place she has not been up on in over 10 years. Talk about a change!)
Initially, my biggest fear was that I would forget about Ripley – his little habits and the stories we shared. I wanted so desperately to emblazon his memory in my mind. Consequently, right after his death, we took a notebook and through our tears, wrote down all of the things that had made him special. Every memory we could come up with, even the small, silly ones. And, as Dean and I would remember additional stories, we would continue to write. It helped in the healing process and allowed us to slowly let go, knowing Ripley’s life story was safe. However, we soon realized that we should do this for all of our kitties, keeping records as we go. So Lady Jane, and now Baxter, have their own special memory books. And we take photographs…so many photographs.
But, for all of the progress we have made, the truth is, I don’t think there will ever come a day when I don’t think about our Orange Boy. He was our very first pet together, and because he came into our lives just 3 months after Dean and I were married, Ripley had been there practically from the beginning. We loved him so much, and he, us. He will always be a part of our story.
Ripley, for all of our brave faces, how we still miss you! But, this I promise you: you will never be forgotten. Afterall, you never forget your first.
The 13 Project is a the mastermind project of Serena Faber Nelson of the blog Pretty Fluffy. A huge animal welfare advocate, Serena encouraged everyone to make a list of 13 acts of kindness that each of us can perform in behalf of shelter/rescue animals – one for each of the (almost) 13 weeks left in 2012 . These acts do not have to be huge goals, but should be reasonable and achievable…and your list does not even have to have 13 items. The idea is to show that even small acts of kindness can add up to big help for those animals in need.
Developing the Posh Pets’ list involved a lot of brainstorming! But, I think that the our list is totally do-able and will keep me focussed for the rest of the year. So, here is our list..
- Volunteer weekly at Toronto Animal Services (North) to take flattering images of their current adoptables. I have been doing this for almost a year now, and I can honestly say that this is one of the highlights of my week. I love meeting the new furry faces, spending some time with them and then watching as they find their forever homes!
- Blog and post the adoptables’ images on the Posh Pets’ Facebook page on a weekly basis. There are many wonderful fellow volunteers at TAS and together we work to share the stories and images of these lovely adoptables to a wide audience and help these animals in need. One volunteer has a very active page that shares these furry faces far and wide!
- Pin the adoptables on Pinterest to reach a wider/different audience. I have not done this regularly in the past, but now it will be done each week.
- Donate my extra towels, bedding and sheets. Over the years, we have gathered quite a collection…most of which are not regularly used. These are going to be given to our local shelter.
- Research a Canadian rescue/animal welfare group and commit to a small monthly donation. I, like a lot of others, fall into the trap of thinking that if we do not have much to give, then it is hardly worth it to make the donation. But, many small amounts can go a long way to helping animals in need.
- Network with other local photographers to find a photographer for Toronto Animal Service’s other location. This has already been done!
- Offer to donate photography and adoption story to a not-for-profit organization’s calendar which will be sold to help shelter animals. This means reaching out to those who have adopted from a shelter.
- Posh Pets is a member of a wonderful organization called HeARTs Speak who unite animal artists in helping animals in need. There is strength in numbers, so I will introduce HeARTs Speak to 3 other pet photographers/artists in the hopes that it will encourage them to join and volunteer their time helping shelter animals.
- Write a Posh Pets blog post about the joys of adopting. Our cat, Lady Jane, is proof-positive of that fact.
- Educate others on the responsibility to spay and neuter their pets. We simply would not have an over-population problem if responsible pet ownership existed.
- Seriously consider adopting or fostering a shelter animal. This is a hard one for me as we lost our dear Ripley (who came from the Toronto Humane Society some 16+ years ago) last June. It has been hard for me to even think of another family member as it seemed like a “replacement” for our Ripley. I’ve come to realize that Ripley will never be replaced and that we, and our 15.5 year old kitty Lady Jane, just needed time to grieve. Of course, we will need to be thoughtful about introducing a new family member to Lady Jane, but I think that maybe, just maybe, we are ready to welcome a new furry face into our lives.
- Share the idea the 13 Project with other like-minded people and businesses.
So, that is our list…what is on yours?
This week’s theme was “rescue” and we were free to interpret that in any way we felt. As many already know, this was an especially emotional week for the Posh Pets family as we said good-bye to Ripley, our 17.5 year old orange tabby. For those who follow this blog, you have ‘met’ Ripley many times as he was often the subject of my camera as we worked through our weekly challenges. To suddenly not have him around anymore is a huge shock, but my husband, Lady Jane (our other cat) and I are learning a new routine and slowly getting past the initial heartbreak.
I’ve spent some time this week going through old photos of Ripley. As you can imagine, I started photographing him almost immediately from the day he came home and into our lives. Going through these images has been wonderful. We have laughed and we have cried, but they have brought back such wonderful memories that I am so glad I spent the money I did on film. (As a side point, I have also been astounded at how horrible a photographer I was 16+ years ago!) In doing so however, I came across two images that made me gasp just a little, for I had forgotten about them.
They were taken in December 2009 and January 2010 (my metadata tells me so) as I was starting to toss an idea around that I wanted to photograph pets exclusively. I remember thinking that that was probably not possible, but that there was no harm in dreaming. And playing in photoshop. And so, without any intention of ever showing this to the world, I pretended that I had a gallery show, complete with fine art prints, and came up with this:
Looking at them now, I do not think that either of these two photographs are particularly any good. My style has developed since then and has actually changed quite a bit. But what does startle me are the two little words below my Karen Weiler Photography business name. Posh Pets.
Those two words were the beginning of a little idea that I never dreamed would become the reality of Posh Pets Photography today. Looking at them now, I laugh as I know that the name came to me quite by accident as I was simply playing around.
More importantly though, these two documents are evidence of how integral both Ripley and Lady Jane were to the start of Posh Pets (even if I did not realize it then) and how much of what I do today is because of them. I volunteer once a week to photograph shelter animals because I know what joy and happiness giving a homeless animal a home can bring. Ripley and Lady Jane have taught me personally how much these little creatures give and how little they ask for in return. And I offer custom photography sessions for pets because I know that there are families everywhere who treasure their pets like a member of their family. And because, when these lovely souls eventually leave us, we want images to hold on to.
So, yes, Ripley and Lady Jane both originally came to us from shelters and therefore fit the classic definition of a rescue. But the paw prints they have left in my life and the huge influence they have had on my work has shaped me. They made me realize what it was I wanted to do. I may have ‘rescued’ them from a shelter many years ago, but they have spent the many years since that day taking care of me…
PS: Forgive me for not taking a new image this week…this is a story I wanted to tell.
Who else was rescued this week? Next in our blog ring is Unleashed! Pet Portraits in Victoria, British Columbia. Let’s go visit her!
In our house, the cats drink Perrier.
Water. Fresh. Cold. Chilled in the fridge. On demand…
Let me tell you about our history with water. We’ve been through a number of different water bowl scenarios. Like most cats, at one time, Ripley had a water bowl. Simple and clean. But, we discovered (or Ripley trained us) that he likes his water fresh and cold. Soon after, he had a fountain that constantly circulated his water and made lovely babbling noises that made me want to go to the washroom. That was good for a couple of years. But then it seemed that the fountain didn’t keep his water cold enough and he would meow at the fridge for new, colder water. Ripley has always been so cute that we gave in and started giving him water when he asked (even if his bowl was filled to the brim with room-temperature water).
At this point, Ripley currently has two water bowls strategically placed in the house. And we have our ritual. He will ask for water at the one, have a drink, and then promptly ask for the second water bowl to be filled. Of course, he has to SEE you fill his water bowl. No cheating and using time efficiently, by simply filling both bowls at the same time. That doesn’t cut it in our house.
The water is “special” as well – which is the only reason why my husband and I have allowed ourselves to be trained in such a fashion. Ripley has bad teeth. Like some people who dutifully go to the dentist every three months and still have a tartar build-up and gingivitis, our orange kitty is just one of those felines. Dental cleanings at the local vet are very expensive, as we found out within a year of Ripley coming into our home. He had two cleanings that year, within 9 months of each other. His teeth had deteriorated so badly and so quickly, that there was concern that he had something seriously wrong. It turned out that he just has bad teeth. Regular cleanings are not an option because of the expense and the need to put him under anaesthetic every time it was performed. So, our vet recommended that we add something to his water – a liquid enzyme that keeps their teeth and breath fresh and beautiful. The $20 bottle lasts us about 6 months and since using it over 10 years ago, Ripley has not had another dental cleaning.
But, that began our lifelong process of “making” kitty water. It has to be kept in glass bottles or the enzyme seems to do weird things to plastic bottles. Thus, the Perrier bottle. We make sure it is marked in the fridge – not that it would kill you if you drank it. In fact, you would have clean teeth! However, it does mean one thing:
In our house, the cats drink Perrier. Or, so they think.
Now, let’s see what all the other creative and talented members of the Project 52 blog circle have come up with. We’ll start with fellow Ontar-ian, Ann Kearns Photography. And remember to make your way around the whole circle until you wind up back here.