Ever since I was little, I always knew that I didn’t want a “normal” life. Whatever normal means anyway. I had imagination, creativity, and a thirst for life. I was the ultimate tomboy, obsessed with animals and exploring nature. As I got older, I slowly and begrudgingly started to lose all of that. I think that’s what pretty much happens to 95% of us. It’s a lucky few that get to keep their child-like sense of wonder. You listen to everyone around you telling you what the “right” thing to do is. Family, friends, society. All saying, “Do good in school, go to college, get a good job.”
So that’s exactly what I did. But not before traveling all the way to the other side of the world to Australia my senior year of college as a last hoorah. I looked at it as my final bit of living before I accepted the bitter defeat of entering the “Real World” (cue dramatic sound effect… DUN DUN DUNNNNN!). And apparently the “Real World” consisted of waking up everyday before the sun, jumping on NJ Transit for about an hour and a half, sitting in a cubicle crunching numbers, dealing with corporate politics, taking the train back another hour and a half, getting home after the sun, just in time to go to bed and do it all over again the next day. For two and a half years, I sat on the train looking at everyone else doing the same exact thing, and I couldn’t help but think, “Am I the only one who thinks this is ABSOLUTELY INSANE?!”
So after the blessing-in-disguise downsizing due to the “Great Recession”, I did some crazy soul searching. Not that I haven’t been trying since I graduated high school, but things have a way of coming to you when you finally have some free time. And it hit me like a slap in the face. I LOVE creating, I LOVE photography, and I’ve always LOVED animals. Why not put it all together? After more research on it, I wondered why I didn’t think of it sooner. Strange thing is, things just started easily falling into place. Like the universe was rewarding me for finding my purpose I was so desperately searching for. It just so happened that the next month there was a Cowbelly Pet Photography Workshop in NYC. Which was one of the most informative and fun worshops I have ever been to in my life btw. The shelter I volunteered for, FOLAS, asked me to design the cover of their 2011 Happy Tails Calendar. Life seemed less of a struggle because even though during these past 6 months there was a ton of stress to get everything up and running, I finally had a purpose, the reason to be happy to get out of bed in the morning.
People ask me, “Why pets?” It’s because besides being lovable, adorable, and all cuddly cute, they remind me of how I used to be as a child. How everyone should live their lives. Completely in the moment, being 100% themselves, having this wonder and curiosity about the world around them. Loving with abandon. COMPLETELY ALIVE. Not doing the SSDD of life, worrying about everything, everyone and their mother, and putting the ACTUAL LIVING on hold.
So it is my responsibility to remind everyone through my art, of that mentality and also capture the relentless loving bond that pets and their people share. Because it’s moments like those that make life worth it.
by Stephanie Madeline