Telling Your Pet’s Story
Scrapbooks Strut their Stuff
photos courtesy of Liisa Kyle
For many, handwritten letters bundled with ribbon, pressed flowers and fading photographs have been replaced by emails, computerized cards and digital images, with the notable exception of scrapbooks.
A scrapbook, done right, is a memorabilia treasure chest. Pages are embellished, decorated and personalized to bring memories alive. Pets get to strut their stuff, too. Mary Anne Benedetto, author of Write Your Pet’s Life Story in 7 Easy Steps, in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, says that no matter the species, each pet has special qualities or quirks and a tale to tell.
Liisa Kyle, Ph.D., founder of CoachingForCreativePeople.com, in Seattle, Washington, also trains candidates for Guide Dogs for the Blind. “The pup comes to me at 8 weeks old and moves on a year or more later,” says Kyle. “It’s traditional, and a big deal, to give the dog’s new person a gift when the transfer is made. For the first pup, I made a memory book starting from his first days with us. Bright white paper behind each photo highlighted the contrast so the man, who had minimal vision, could see the pictures. People are curious about service animals, so he carries the book to show it around. It’s a fun way to educate people about the guide dogs program.”
Anne Moss, owner of TheCatSite.com, based in Pardes Hana, Israel, says scrapbooking is a recurrent theme in the site’s forums. “Our members tend to be computer savvy and create online pages for their cats. Yet many don’t want to give up the hands-on experience of scrapbooking; it gives them a special way to preserve memories of or create a long-lasting tribute for their beloved cats.” One member posted about a shadow box she’d made to display favorite toys and photos; another used camping-themed stickers around a photo of the cat napping in a kitty tent.
“I started taking pictures of my Bernese mountain dog, Chance, when he first came to me,” says Yvette Schmitter, an entrepreneurial software programmer in New York City. “We dress in matching costumes like Fiona and Shrek, Princess Leia and Yoda, Mr. and Mrs. Claus. It’s a creative outlet after writing computer code all day and a good excuse to play together.”
Schmitter places the photos in pre-made greeting cards and has a current mailing list that exceeds 250, including the doorman, neighbors, the vet and groomer, friends and family. “The deli guy told me he looks forward to each holiday just to see what we’ve come up with. That’s what motivates me; our fun photos can make somebody’s day better.”
Heather Post, owner of The Etiquette Seed, in Daytona Beach, Florida, specializes in coaching and speaking engagements. When her in-laws traveled to their summer home, she made a scrapbooklet for them. “It showed Sophie, our rescue terrier, at the door, window or in the car, with rhyming captions that said she missed them.” Post sends similar photo “stories” to her daughter, Meghan, now in college; a cousin’s daughter even took Sophie’s Halloween photo to preschool for show and tell.
Whichever forum we choose, stages and phases of a pet’s life can be celebrated with a lock of hair, paw print, obedience school certificate and lots of photos. After all, a pet is part of the family.
Sandra Murphy is a freelance writer in St. Louis, MO. Connect at StLouisFreelanceWriter@mindspring.com.
by Sandy Murphy
Yvette Schmitter keeps her dog’s photo sessions short because, “Chance pouts after 20 minutes.” If a large dog looks intimidating, soften its appearance by adding a bright bandana, hat or goofy sunglasses. Liisa Kyle took weekly photos of a pup to show its growth. Joanna Campbell Slan, author of the Kiki Lowenstein Scrap-n-Craft mystery book series, offers several additional tips.
• Take photos from the pet’s eye level instead of from above.
• For a dark-haired pet, use a contrasting background; a colorful blanket or pale wall makes it stand out.
• Add texture by layering papers and adding trinkets and creative captions.
• Notes from a groomer can make a cute addition.
• Catalog the words a pet knows on a designated page. Go beyond the obvious command words.