Everything I know about... dogs
If you’re reading this, you probably like dogs quite a bit. But imagine if you were parent to four pooches and had a day job as a professional pet photographer! That dream life is a reality for Ruth O’Leary. Here she shares how she juggles life with four pooches, the craziest shoots she’s worked on and the secret to getting the perfect pet photograph...
My first ever dog was... Boney M, a Lab mix. She ran away from home and was never found. Apparently she was 100% crazy but I'd cry if we had to go somewhere without her.
I knew I was a dog person when… I was sitting at an AFL game with my husband, not long after adopting our first dog together. I just looked at him and said "I love Ivan SO much. I never knew I could feel so much love for a dog".
The thing I love most about dogs is… How they find joy in the simplest of things. "We're going for a walk? BEST. DAY. EVER!"
If my husband Dave didn't like dogs too I would… get a new husband, obviously!
The first dog we got together was… Ivan, a seven-year-old Siberian Husky that my cousin bought as a puppy but needed to re-home. On the first day I was walking him I decided I might like to jog. He took off and I had to drop the lead so I didn't face-plant. He ran into the duck pond and wouldn't get out for over half an hour. That was our first introduction to just how stubborn he was.
Now we have four dogs! They are called... Angel (she's really not one!), Chopper, Bruno and Peanut Butter (who is called Butters for short)
We cope with having four dogs by… Having a routine and quite a lot of rules. They're not robots and they regularly flick us the middle finger, but running a tight ship keeps us all on the same page.
The best thing about having lots of dogs is… having a blanket made of warm cuddly dogs on cold nights.
I became a pet photographer because... I started out volunteering my amateur pet photography skills to help dogs get adopted. The business grew from that but ten years on I still devote much of my free time to photographing adoptable dogs.
The most memorable shoot I've done is… probably two pugs on an inflatable cloud with a rainbow in the water on a sunny summer day. We drew a crowd and people wanted to know if it was a gay dog wedding. It was so fun! The photo features in my last charity fundraiser book Squishy Face Crew.
I’ve never had… a bad shoot where I couldn't get beautiful images of my subject. The hardest ones are when the dog is terminally ill and you're taking images for their owner to remember them by.
I don't think I have a favourite breed to photograph... but, I do have a favourite age. I absolutely LOVE photographing puppies.
The secret to getting the perfect shot is… patience combined with whatever makes the subject want to engage with you – be it food, toys or silly noises.
The most unusual animal I've photographed was... when I took adoption photos for a goat one time, that was pretty out there!
People like having professional pictures of their pets because… our pets are a huge part of our lives. Horrible as it is to imagine, most people will outlive their four-legged best friends. Professional portraits help us to remember everything about them, long after they've passed.
Something most people don't know about dogs is… that the majority of dogs don't want to be hugged. An arm around the neck is seen as a sign of dominance and most dogs won't enjoy that, especially from a stranger.
Dogs make my life better because… they give me a reason to get up in the morning. They are my raison d'être. My own pack of misfits make me laugh more than having a live-in comedian ever could.
Interview by Jenny Haward