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How A Cat Reversed The Fortunes of A Senior

Lesley O'Donnell - Friday, August 03, 2018

As August is the month of feline kings, I thought it especially fitting to write about a glorious thick-maned cat called Leo who I recently photographed on the Sunshine Coast.

He has a very interesting story.

Not only was he a rescue cat but, in the most unlikely of circumstances, he essentially rescued his new owner Val.

As a senior with declining health issues Val moved into an Aged Care Facility and was destined to stay there until the end of her days. But with some life changing treatment and sheer determination on her part, she managed to beat the odds and moved out to live independently again. Such an incredible and inspiring achievement!

Her one wish for her reclaimed life was to have a cat as a companion.

Her family thought it would be a straightforward task to visit an animal shelter and adopt on the spot. But Val had other ideas and felt she needed to sense an undefined “something” before making her decision.She wanted a “special” cat and it took many visits to many shelters to find him.

Waiting to be found was three year old Ragdoll Leo. He was accustomed to an indulgent life with another elderly citizen but became orphaned when she passed away.

Val couldn’t believe her luck when she first set eyes on Leo. “When I looked at him and he looked at me I felt an immediate connection and knew he was the one!” 

With his soft colours and captivating blue eyes he was so beautiful and good natured that she couldn’t understand why he hadn’t already been re-homed. Maybe he instinctively knew he had to wait for Val and the staff at the shelter held him back until they found just the right person to become his new carer.

The outcome was perfect and they are now absolutely devoted to each other. Leo comes and goes as he likes, enjoys basking in the sunshine on the windowsill as he watches the world go by, snuggles up for cuddles whenever he wants them (which is often) and allows Val to shower him with great affection.

Unknown to Val, until after she had signed his adoption papers, Leo’s original owner was so incredibly fond of her stunning cat that she wrote into her will that there be enough funds held over to support Leo in comfort and in health for the rest of his life. So for Val, this was an unexpected bonus to choosing the right cat. 

Val pinches herself about finding such a beautiful cat companion and wonders if she should enter him in Cat Shows. With a collection of his framed photos now adorning her living room wall she made the comment, “ My house now looks so trendy!”

I think this is a tale about good karma, the restorative properties having a pet can bring and good finding good.


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Studio Portraits of Diva the Dog

Lesley O'Donnell - Wednesday, March 09, 2016


This adorable dog called Diva does not reflect her name by being an actress, famous singer or performer. However, there are several descriptions of diva in the Thesaurus that seem appropriate terms to describe this adorable little Jack Russell Shi Tzu cross.

Perhaps interpreting diva to mean heroine the words ace, worthy, ideal, champion, leading lady and popular figure all seem to suggest exactly what she is to her human companions.

To me, she also earned the title of “perfect model” when she recently came to the studio for her pet photography session. 

Her photos were taken as a surprise for one of her dads and, printed in black and white, will join two other framed pieces featuring Diva with her brother Nelix who is sadly no longer here. 


Francis informed me that resting in the soft comfort of an easy chair is Diva’s absolute favourite pass time and that, at 13 years of age, it is where she spends most of her time. So it seemed only appropriate that chairs were going to be the ideal prop for her photo shoot. Diva posed beautifully with a few different combinations of chairs, cushions and blankets. 

These two images with contrasting expressions and totally different pieces of furniture were the ones Francis selected as the gifts for John.  I think he will be thrilled, don’t you?

Please contact us if you would like to give someone a portrait of their dog, cat or other pet. It makes for a very special, personal gift.


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Gentle Greyhound Photographed in Melbourne

Lesley O'Donnell - Monday, December 07, 2015


Benny is one lucky dog to have found a home with Jackie and Nigel. They absolutely adore their Greyhound Wolfhound cross and will shortly give him a new life overseas when they relocate to England. I had so much fun photographing at their home and Albert Park Lake ensuring they have some meaningful Melbourne memories to take with them.


Active when outdoors, Benny is obsessed with his ball and loves nothing more than venturing to one of the many parks near his home where he repeatedly runs after and jumps high in the air to retrieve it. He also loves excursions to the country to visit the horses Jackie rides.



However, once home, he becomes a bit of a lay-about and when Jackie and Nigel leave him home alone he likes to sneak into the spare room to his favourite resting place on the guest bed. He is not alone all that often though as he spends the working week with a dog sitter who possibly loves him as much as Jackie and Nigel do.



Benny is very affectionate and gentle and was a joy to photograph because he did everything he was asked to do. I can't imagine why he was ever surrendered for adoption as he is such a delightful companion.



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German Shepherd Lives the Good Life

Lesley O'Donnell - Tuesday, April 08, 2014

You have to be impressed by sons who give their mother something she will really value. 

I was genuinely touched when I learnt that Christina’s boys had gifted her funds towards a pet photography session with her beloved German Shepherd Max. So thoughtful and considered. 

Of course I was also thrilled that she chose Pet Shots Photography as the studio for the assignment.


Christina describes her gentle giant as a dog for all places. 

He does indeed enjoy a life full of variation rather than one with a predictable routine. 

His early years were spent as a city dog living in a large apartment; an exciting environment full of changing sights, sounds and smells to thrill his senses. During this period he also spent his days hanging out (or perhaps even helping out) at the family business headquarters.

Max rarely spends his weekends in the city though, as he regularly joins his devoted family at their country property. A perfect lifestyle option that offers him the chance to run free and swim in the dam; one of his favourite activities.


These days 7 year old Max resides comfortably in a grand period home in an inner city suburb. His walks with Christina around the tree lined streets now bring him into contact with suburban curiosities such as cats and other dogs. However, Max is not so keen on others of his own species, preferring to keep the company of his two legged companions.



This intelligent dog with a happy temperament endears himself with his loyalty, cheekiness and innocence. His approach to life seems to be just to enjoy it.


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Pet Photography Melbourne - Bucket List

Lesley O'Donnell - Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Keith the resident canine receptionist at Swan Street Vet clinic has bravely undergone surgery to have his spleen removed after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. Currently he is undergoing chemotherapy. The prognosis is not good but fingers crossed he will pull through and surprise us all. His mum is also his vet so we know he will get the best care he could possibly hope for.

I just love how Dr Mel, her friends, staff and concerned patients have come up with a bucket list to make his life as happy as it possibly can be.

So far he has become an artist (check out his paintings on the timeline of Swan Street Vet FB page), got to sleep on the bed, had a cheese burger, a beer and a macaroon. I wonder what else he will get to do to make his life complete.


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Have You Seen Us In Home Beautiful Magazine?

Lesley O'Donnell - Friday, October 15, 2010
Here is how Joey appears in Home Beautiful Magazine, showing off the collars and leads available on www.frenchkey.com


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Favourite Pet Shop

Lesley O'Donnell - Tuesday, September 21, 2010

If you live in a bayside suburb you have probably come across the wonderful dog bakery called “Year of the Dog” in Hampton. It is a special business that has attracted a loyal following of appreciative clients of both the two and four legged variety.

The “Year of the Dog” is a fabulous store run by two energetic dog loving women. Stacey looks after the front of house while Lani creates a wonderful selection of human grade dog food and treats, including birthday cakes in the specially built kitchen behind the shop.

They also sell stylish dog toys and accessories and it is a great place to shop if you want to buy a special gift for a dog loving friend. 

Yummy snacks are also available for pet owners to enjoy with coffee either at the front of the shop or to take away as you pass by on your daily walk. It is a clever concept and one of my favourite Melbourne stores.

Click on their cute logo to check out the website. If you can’t make it to Hampton you can order their goodies online. How easy can it be!


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