The Fuzzypants Story
“Samwise, you sure do have some fuzzy pants.”
Those words started it all.
Ever since I was a teenager I’ve always found myself with a camera in hand, shooting things I loved about my every day life – the cute little salt+pepper shakers from that dusty antique shop in town, the gorgeous antipasti my mom meticulously assembled for Christmas dinner (before we tore into it), the chunky textures of my grandmother’s hand-knit afghan… so certainly taking photos of my little Sam was completely natural. Especially since he came into my life at such a perfect moment.
I was recently divorced and had been on my own for several months when I adopted Sam. I loved my little house but it was now very quiet and a little lonely. And yes, I’ll admit that the late night squeaks and groans of its 90-year old bones gave me chills more than once. I thought the company of a pet would be just what I needed. My Samwise is the first pet I chose for myself. He was surrendered from a private home and was at the bottom of a stack of kitty crates at North Shore Animal League when I found him.
Once I packed him up for the drive home, he became the star of my show; just me and Sammy getting to know each other and binge-watching episodes of Supernatural. I’d spend nights talking to him, sharing my fears, ideas, plans. I was never really one for sharing these things with even my closest of friends and family. I wanted to be strong – or at least appear strong. It sounds silly in retrospect but at that moment, it was just who I was. But Sammy knew better and he just listened. No advice, no judgment (unless I was late with his dinner) – just an ear and his perfectly timed purring. We were slowly adapting to our new life.
Here is the first snapshot I took of Sammy the day he came home (January 29, 2007). I shared it with my friends with this note: “He is massive. But he is sweet and cuddly and happy. (I bought the little bed before I adopted him and meant to exchange it when I saw how big he was… but he loves it so I conceded defeat and just giggle when he squishes himself into it and starts snoring.)”
But life would quickly change.
Exactly one month after getting Sam, the company at which I’d worked for 19 years announced they were shutting down. I was gutted. And scared to death. I had been doing pretty well on my own and now I just lost my income.
I have no idea how I pulled myself together enough to go on job interviews. The weeks going through the shutdown were emotionally and physically draining. It still amazes me that I was able to land 2 very lucrative offers. But both would take me away from my home, my safe place. After a long painful few months (that included an introduction to the wonderful world of anxiety and panic attacks), I left my cute little Long Island house and relocated to Virginia. The day I drove away, I cried so hard I made myself sick and by the time Sammy and I reached our new home in Leesburg, my eyes were swollen and I was running a fever. I held him tightly that restless night.
My little house. We bought it in 2004 and it needed some care. The picture of the outside was taken on the day we closed. The inside pictures are of my favorite room.
Over the next few weeks, Sammy and I slowly got used to another new life. We were just getting to know each other when we left New York and now here we were, learning again side-by-side. We were both going through the same thing – where am I? Who is this stranger in the house with me? How did I get here? Am I safe? I think that in trying to make him feel comfortable and at home, I started to feel comfortable and at home. But my camera had been tucked away for weeks and it would be a couple of years before I looked for it again.
After the initial trauma of the move, things started to fall into place. The job was going well, I was making new friends, my family was visiting me. I was starting to believe in the decision. But things changed drastically on the job front. Had I not already met the man that is now my husband, I would have gone screaming back to NY without looking back. Instead, I picked up a camera again. It kept me grounded. The people and animals I met through photography and rescue helped me stay connected to the person I was before I was worn down by constant, unrelenting negativity.
So I kept shooting – my cat, the neighbor’s dog, then another and another and another. My husband introduced me to a friend of his that is a professional pet photographer and when I saw her amazing work, I knew what I wanted to do. (A seriously HUGE shout-out to Jill at Sit. Stay. Smile. Photography for the inspiration, advice, and friendship as I took off on this journey.)
But it had been years since my photography days at F.I.T. and a lot changed – film was now digital, the darkroom was now Photoshop. I look back now on some of my early images and I want to pretend they never existed. But it was part of the learning experience and I absorbed as much information as I could from mentors and lots of practice. The day I left the insanity of my job was the day I breathed the biggest sigh of relief of my life. I wasn’t quite sure where I was going, but I was on my way.
One random day I was trying to catch a photo of Sammy as he contorted his 16 pounds into an epic cat-yoga stretch. I looked at him as he sauntered away and said, “Samwise, you sure do have some fuzzy pants.”
And Fuzzypants Pet Photography was born.
PART II: What the heck is a Samwise anyway?
My first “official” photo of Sammy – and my first attempt at a logo and branding. Yikes! (February 2011)