A dog-loving human and potential client recently asked about investing in photography with me. I explained my process, fees, and rates for the different kinds of art I create.
"Wow! That's extravagant! I just want a few pictures," she replied.
I sat with that for weeks, carefully examining my structure, costs, and prices. I didn't want to be excessive and I certainly didn't want to take advantage of anyone. After looking at a lot of numbers, I felt comfortable that my rates were appropriate for my costs, skill, and service.
I realized something else.
The love I have for my animal family is extravagant.
I'm betting that the love my clients have for their animal families is the same.
Merriam-Webster describes extravagant as "exceeding the reason of limits or necessity," "lacking in moderation or restraint," and "extremely or excessively elaborate."
Yes to all of those. One of the most valuable lessons I have learned from animals in my lifetime is that extravagance in a relationship builds a better relationship. Express feelings more frequently than you think you need to. Check your restraint at the door when it comes to demonstrating how you feel about someone. Enjoy an elaborate display of affection or joy.
Dogs do this every day. Cats . . . not so much,
I've been called crazy because I went to school to learn how to make nutritionally sound food for dogs and cats. I've made nearly every meal my animal family has consumed since 2000. I believe real bodies need real food in a real form.
We've gone out of our way to make vacation arrangements to bring Danes with us. Kitties have never enjoyed travel, so we hire someone to come and check on them several times a day while we are away from home.
Every vehicle I have purchased since 1999 has been with Danes in mind. I considered their comfort and safety when choosing each vehicle.
When any member of our family has been an inpatient or required extensive care at home, I sat with each of them. I massaged and did TTouch. I provided blankets and hugs, I snuggled.
The living room in my home is dedicated to animal art. It is the largest room in the house. It's also the room where I find the greatest comfort on a difficult day because every family member has a presence and a space there. I can look up and see each one on the walls.
I receive the better end of the bargain. For all I give, I receive much more.
The greeting that lacks in "moderation or restraint" when I come home after any length of absence.
The willingness to sit with me (or on me) and melt into my lap, even on a day I've expressed impatience or crankiness.
The ever-attentive listening and companionship. Whether I need to talk, laugh, cry, or be silent, I know I have a partner, and it never matters what time it is.
My animal family loves me in a way I can describe as extravagant. My goal is to return that love in my own way.
I'm going to own "extravagant" as a label. It fits. It's one more way I can honor the incredible animal teachers I've encountered in my life.
This extravagance is what makes me an exceptional photographer for companion animals. Extravagance is why I talk about companion animals instead of pets. Extravagance represents my beliefs about the kind of experience I want with a photographer, and that's what I give to my clients.
I'm Shannon, and I love and am loved by four Great Danes, four cats, and one horse (four Danes, one cat, and one horse are no longer walking this earth). Here I'll share stories of my adventures in grief photography for companion animals, my own grief journey, and thoughts on caregiving.