I’ve been taking photos of animals since I was a little kid. I used to dress up my sister in different outfits and make her pose in the backyard with our family dog Nikki, collar off of course; I felt she looked more beautiful this way. My parents were always very supportive of my hobby. However, it was all film back in those days and after many, many rolls I distinctly remember my dad telling me that he felt we really did have enough photos of the dog now. I didn’t mind, I just took photos without the film in. It still made that satisfying “click” noise so I was happy! In 2004 I studied at NMIT and completed a Diploma of Applied Photography. So maybe all that film wasn’t wasted after all!
I’ve always loved animals. Our first cat was a kitten from the litter of a neighbour’s cat who decided that our garage would be a safe place to have her babies.
I remember taking the kitten from my dad as he passed it down from the roof space. I clutched the tiny tabby close to my chest and carried it carefully down the street to the neighbour’s house, trying not to hurt him but also to keep him warm and safe. Once he reached eight weeks old he became Toby the tabby cat and the fifth member of the Renouf family.
After a couple of years of nagging, my mum finally conceded defeat and agreed to the addition of a puppy to our family. We did our research, went to dog shows and learnt all about the kinds of breeds that might suit our lifestyle. Not being particularly fond of exercise or dog hair we concluded that a Whippet would suit us best.
Picking up Nikki from the breeder is one of my favourite memories. There were around six Whippets at the breeders house (all from the same litter) and when we arrived it was like a party! They ran around us and the house, over the couches, sprinting with excitement. For a kid who loved dogs, this was Christmas. I even thought about asking mum and dad to let me live at the “puppy house”!
Nikki’s “real” name was Dance Floor Dolly and her sister was Ricochet Rosie (the breeder was into racing so chose very interesting names for his Whippets) but we felt that Nikki would be easier to call out across an oval. Nikki was with us for 17 years and I feel lucky that we had her for so long.
A few years after Nikki came into our lives we decided that she would benefit from having a doggy friend around. The lovely and gentle Zac joined our family in 1998 and is still with us today. When Nikki eventually passed away we felt Zac would need a companion, so in 2009 we adopted a beautiful Whippety-looking lady called Ruby from Pets Haven Pro-Life Animal Shelter. I say Whippety-looking as we were not 100% sure that she was all Whippet. We thought there might be a little Italian Greyhound in there as well; either way we adored her from the moment we met her and although Nikki would never be forgotten Ruby was as much loved as Nikki was. Sadly we lost Ruby quite suddenly in August 2012 and are still dealing with the huge hole that has been left in our hearts.
Whilst all our hearts were broken at losing two dogs within a very short time, we saw that Zac was even more affected, so I set about looking for a rescue buddy for him and came upon a dashingly handsome young man with one blue and one brown eye called Harvey who was living on a farm in the middle of nowhere in WA. My partner and I packed the car and drove out to meet him and within two minutes we were in love. Harvey was on a plane to Melbourne within a week and has been living in Whippet heaven at my parents place ever since! (Below left, Harvey and Zac).
Always looking to invite more animals into my life I have had fish, hermit crabs, four mice and my beloved rat Jaz who was like a tiny dog in personality. If you’ve ever had a rat companion then you know what I am talking about. This little lady would come when you called her, sleep next to me, let me kiss her soft tummy and make me laugh all the time with her antics. She is still missed and I think of her often.
I now live with two cats, Brucey and Lady, both from Pets Haven (both foster failures!) and my husband Rob. At first Rob wasn’t much of a cat person (actually he was very allergic) but after a while he got used to them. For a long time he wouldn’t call them by their names but preferred to call them Orange and Brown.
Orange (Brucey) and Rob still have a somewhat more respectful, distant relationship but Brown (Lady) is daddy’s little girl and is more than happy to put up with the extra attention that comes with this. I think Rob sees cats as small, oddly shaped dogs that are more flexible but less agreeable. We love them both and delight in their clowning around and poses including “long cat”, “full chicken”, “slug” and “roo”.
In April 2008 my partner Rob and I became involved with Pets Haven Animal Shelter. This was the beginning of an amazing journey into animal welfare and has widened my understanding of people, animals and the world in general. I have been so lucky to have met some amazing people who have fought for years to help the companion animals of Australia and I fully support anyone or any group who is trying to improve the situation for them. It was these experiences that helped me decide that I needed a better understanding of dogs and their behaviour so I booked into the Delta Society Certificate IV in Companion Animal Services.
This amazing course and my incredible mentor Kim Leong taught me so much more about dogs and their behaviour than I ever thought possible. This helps me every day with my interaction with dogs (and cats!) and I am so grateful that there is an organisation that is so dedicated to teaching people the most scientifically up to date, positive training methods for dogs. This has definitely helped make me a much better pet photographer too.
We moved to Perth in March 2012 and although we miss Melbourne we are having a fantastic time getting to know this beautiful city. Excitingly it was here that we were finally able to adopt a dog of our own! We found a very special little pooch on Pet Rescue who was listed with the wonderful Paw Prints Private Rescue in Victoria who helped get little Charlie to us and it was love at first sight. My little man follows me around and goes with me wherever I can take him. He is my shadow and we love him more than seems possible. He also now even has his own Facebook and Instagram pages!
Thanks for reading my story, you now know how much I love my furkids and I know how much you all love yours. That’s why I want to capture them for you, so you have something beautiful to remember them by forever.
P.S My mum eventually came around to the dog idea so much so that when you rang the family answering machine it would say: “You’ve rung the home of Mike, Sue, Zac and Harvey, please leave a message, we’d love to hear from you.” A changed woman? I think so… 🙂