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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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Two Border Terriers and a Tortoiseshell

Lesley O'Donnell - Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Recently I photographed these two Border Terriers in the comfort of their own stylish backyard. They might be the same breed, share the same home and sport similar rough-textured coats but the similarities seem to stop there. Their personalities, interests and needs couldn’t be more different.


Josie, is the older of the two dogs I had the pleasure of photographing. Although a little reserved, she has the more exuberant nature of the two. She particularly enjoys playing with her collection of “fluffy babies”. 

She is a bit of a character and rather humorously sneezes to attract the attention of her human companions. Josie is self-reliant and prefers to sleep alone on her dog bed on the floor. Very fond of her fellow terrier Leon, she likes to keep his appearance up by personally grooming his ears and face.


Although a successful show dog, Leon is a little anxious about life. His owner described him as being autistic so he can be a little obsessive and not sure about new situations or people. Fortunately he wasn’t bothered by my presence or by having his photo taken. A friend of mine refers to me as a dog whisperer so maybe Leon has proven this to be true. 

His favourite toy is a pink ball but he does also like to search for possums in the tall trees that stand in the rear of his yard. He must see himself as a hunter as he once stalked and caught an unsuspecting pigeon.


Nina, a Tortoiseshell Domestic Shorthair, is the third pet in this family but like many cats lives an independent life. She was not expected to stay around during my visit so I was delighted to sneak a few images of her as she checked out what we were up to in the garden.

I love how the hues of these two canines and the feline of the house blend so beautifully. You couldn’t design a more perfect colour match so I know these images are going to look great together displayed on the wall in their home.


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One Lucky Cat

Lesley O'Donnell - Saturday, February 28, 2015


This is one special cat. He even uses a surname!

Most cats spend their entire lives inside their homes or accompanying backyards and seldom venture further afield than their immediate neighbourhoods. Not so with Pepper. 

He began his life in Saudi Arabia, now lives in Melbourne and will possibly immigrate in the future to another distant corner of the big wide world.

This very handsome Persian/Turkish Angora feline goes everywhere, except to work, with Dorris. I must say I was surprised when she came for her photography planning appointment with Pepper untethered and snuggled up in her arms. 

That’s when I learnt that he accompanies Dorris on walks along suburban streets, goes with her to the market and on other outings. He is content to be with her and never tries to free himself from her embrace.


He is treated like a grandchild by her mother and when she knitted Dorris and her husband Shwen scarves, Pepper got one too. He certainly looks very dapper wearing it.

When a kitten, Pepper was very inquisitive and fearless. He is very fortunate that the saying, “curiosity killed the cat” wasn’t his swan song. Twice he fell from high balconies; the first time 2 storeys up and the second from an apartment on the sixth floor. Luckily he survived without injury and it was possibly Dorris and Shwen who were more shaken up by the incident. 

Understandably, Dorris now has a deep desire to protect him and this is possibly why he now leads such an inclusive lifestyle. 

Pepper loves to stalk (although not hunt) and his favourite game is hide and seek and catch me if you can. This fluffy cuddle-muffin eats his dry food directly from Dorris’s hand and enjoys curling up in bed alongside her.


Dorris rescued Pepper when in Saudi Arabi and I can see that everyday he repays her in spades. 


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Three Pets Make Good Company

Lesley O'Donnell - Monday, February 23, 2015


Those of you with several pets will be nodding your heads when I say that the more animals together in a photo the greater the challenge in taking it. Especially if one of them is a young and playful puppy who thinks all other household pets are there for her entertainment. 

India, the beautiful Burmese cat in this family, is still coming to terms with being looked upon as a playmate to the baby in the house. She was not amused by having to be so near to Matilda and tried her best to wriggle free and retreat to a quieter, secluded part of the house. 

On the other hand Pip, the older of the two King Charles Cavalier Spaniels, was very chilled and once on Sue-Virginia’s lap was so relaxed in her position of comfort that at times she dropped off to sleep.

Sue-Virginia’s hands were fully occupied with puss and puppy wrestling but she still managed to maintain a happy smile as she cuddled up with her three companions. 

Who wouldn’t be thrilled to receive from a dear friend, such a thoughtful, personal birthday present? A pet portrait is a gift that keeps on giving forever.

We would love you to leave a comment below or you can book your own pet photography session or arrange a gift for your friend here.



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Pet Shots Photography - Look Alikes

Lesley O'Donnell - Tuesday, October 21, 2014


They say that people and their pets can look alike. With their striking green eyes and vibrant coloured hair these two certainly share some similarities.

This pretty Domestic Shorthair was originally known as Lenny Penny. However, once she came into Jessica’s care, the Lenny was dropped and she became known by the more feminine and suitable name of Penny.

Jessica volunteers with Animal Aid as a foster carer for kittens and rabbits in need of a loving environment until they find their forever homes. She got to know Penny as one of her wards.

Penny’s sisters were adopted quickly as kittens but Penny was never so lucky and she remained at Animal Aid for quite some time as she grew into an adult cat. People were attracted to her beautiful tortoiseshell markings but were not able to bond with her as she always nervously ran away when anyone tried to pat her or pick her up. 

Luckily, Jessica fell for her and decided to adopt Penny herself. Once the decision was made Jessica walked straight in to the cat enclosure, picked her up and placed her in a box to take her home. That surprised everyone at the shelter. As Jessica put her into the car, she looked through the holes of the box and Penny looked back and gave her a little thank you meow.

Although not “snuggle buddies” Penny instantly settled in with Toby, the family’s other cat. They enjoy playing together and just hanging out.

After four years of living with her family, Penny is still nervous of new people and doesn’t enjoy being picked up. However, she is very clever and responds to many word commands including “down stairs” “ into bed” and “time to come in”. Penny does love spending time with family members and indulging in their affection. However, she has particularly bonded with Jessica and looks to her to feel secure and protected.


Penny was very interested in meeting the three little green tree frogs who also live in her house (see previous blog) although it appears that one of them was a little unsure of meeting her.

If you would like to star with Jessica and Penny in the next edition of our fund raising book “Connected Tales III” please register here. We would love to feature images of you and your pets and tell your unique story. Entries are closing soon.


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Working Cats and Dogs - Pet Photography

Lesley O'Donnell - Thursday, August 07, 2014


In Australia, Schipperkes are a lesser known breed of small dog with fluffy jet black coats, curling tails and sharp fox-like features. They are sometimes known as Belgian Barge Dogs as in the past they were often used to guard barges and to keep the rat population on them at bay.



One year old Nellie and her older brother Vinnie don’t earn their keep afloat but they do accompany their mum Carol to work everyday. She operates a wonderful pet supply store called Murphy Brothers in Hawthorn and they are the “fur attendants” there. You may know the iconic building on the corner of Auburn and Burwood Roads that houses this long established family run business. Beginning life as a chaff and grain store it has survived unadulterated and is surely one of our city’s architectural treasures.


Carol’s tortoiseshell cat Cheeky Monkey also spends her days here but prefers to be curled up on her cat tower upstairs away from the hustle and bustle of the retail life below. 


As you can imagine, life for these three is akin to being a child living in a toy shop. Every plaything and treat imaginable is at Carol’s discretion for them to enjoy. They certainly share a charmed life with her.


It was such a delight to photograph these three pets with Carol in this historic building that I have long admired. The patina on the brick walls, caused by a fire in the building some time ago, the hay bails and the rafters of the warehouse roof provided such great backgrounds for this pet photography session. 


We also photographed at Carol’s nearby home and around her historic neighbourhood incorporating other iconic buildings in the area.

Selecting a few photos to post in this blog was a difficult task as this pet photography session resulted in so many great shots. I think Carol made the right decision to incorporate her favourites as a collection in a keepsake photograph album. 

The variety not only celebrates her strong bonds with her pets and the individual personalities of each one, but also documents the history of her own community. That is something she will surely treasure forever.



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Double Trouble - Melbourne Cat Photography

Lesley O'Donnell - Friday, April 18, 2014

Kittens, like all baby animals, are so impossibly cute. They are hard to resist and have the power to make you fall in love with them. Just ask Mat who went off in search of one kitten and came home with two. 


Tabby cats Casper and Spike are brothers, alike but fortunately not quite identical in appearance or mannerisms. This is lucky because I was wondering how I was going to tell them apart. Their size difference helped as Casper is quite a lot bigger than Spike. Perhaps this is because, when he thinks he can get away with it, he helps himself to Spike’s meals as well as his own.

Now 10 years old, these two male cats are so adored by Caroline and Mat that they brought them across from the UK when they moved to Melbourne. It seems only natural to bring the two beings who make you feel calm, happy, chilled and loved to share your new home, no matter how far the journey may be.



Spike, the smaller of the two cats, loves to sit up on the back of the couch and watch the world go by outside the window. He also loves investigating small spaces and is content to curl up inside the smallest of boxes. In his more playful moments he enjoys being teased with a feather on a stick.


Casper has a special fondness for Mat and adores snuggling up over his shoulder. He has a loving and cuddly nature but can also be somewhat mischievous and likes to play with anything that Spike is amusing himself with. Typical sibling rivalry.

Casper’s favourite toy is a mouse on a string but he has been known to use the same hunting skills to catch and destroy giant live moths.

Fascinatingly these two cats are trained to come on command to a whistle. Clever.

They also have their teeth regularly cleaned which is something I have never come across before. Each has a tiny toothbrush and special feline toothpaste. I was intrigued to observe the process and see that they didn’t seem to mind.


I discovered at the end of our photography session, that both cats would look wherever I wanted if a piece of ham was held up in front of them. A new feline seduction trick for me to employ in the future.


This family of four will feature in our forthcoming coffee table book Connected Tales 3. If you would like your pets to star alongside Casper and Spike and help us raise funds for Animal Aid please register here. We would love to have you onboard.


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Beloved Baker Boy

Lesley O'Donnell - Thursday, March 06, 2014

Striking is the most appropriate word to describe this tabby Domestic Shorthair cat. With his vibrant orange nose, bright green eyes and magnificent coat he presents himself as a work of art.

Baker’s beautiful symmetrical stripes are clearly visible for all to see. However, when he rolls over onto his back hopeful of a tummy rub, you discover he conceals cheetah-like spots on his chubby underbelly. This kittenish position also reveals the jet black soles on his paws. Claire cherishes these things about her beloved cat.

His lively nature is revealed in bed where Baker loves to pounce on Claire and Bob’s toes. I suspect they wriggle them a little to enhance and lengthen the activity.

Boisterous Baker’s love of amusing games also keeps Bob entertained. He loves to indulge Baker by playing with him and has given him many feline toys to keep him playfully occupied. Favourite interactions revolve around feathers, toy mice and a long brightly coloured tunnel. 

This rescued cat was fortunate to find such a loving home.  He brings so much joy into it.


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Pet Photography Melbourne - The Eyes Have It

Lesley O'Donnell - Thursday, September 20, 2012

Eyes that would melt you

How beautiful are these two wrapped in their luxurious mohair blanket? Both have striking features but personalities that are as different as their eye colours and coats.

Tarneka, the Birman on the right, loves to play and will often bring string and her toys to Julie and Paul so they will play with her. She has the most unusual ability to tell the time and without fail, every night she knows exactly when it is 9.00pm and time to be fed. She would bite Lily on the legs to signal it was time for supper. Clever and most amusing in her antics.

Lily’s nature on the other hand was quieter and she loved nothing more than cuddling up and being comfortable in a lap, usually Julie’s. A pretty Burmilla with beautiful eyes, nose and markings she had a sweet, loving personality and added much joy to her household.

I feel very privileged to have taken these photos as two weeks later, Lily sadly passed away. May she always be remembered for bringing beauty and love into her world.

Julie commented on 21-Sep-2012 08:55 AM
Lesley (Pet Shots Photography), the photos are amazing and having to choose just the one for the blog must have been a hard decision as there are so many amazing photos. Lesley, you are a very patient and special photographer. You understood our vision
and exceeded our expectations. I can’t wait to see the finished art on our wall. Thank you so much. We will be back... Regards Julie, Paul and a very sad Tarneka
Lesley O'Donnell commented on 21-Sep-2012 09:57 AM
Julie and Paul, Thank you so much for these kind words. It was indeed hard to decide between all the favourite photos of Lily and Tarneka. I could have posted at least fifty on this blog. Best wishes. Lesley
Marie L commented on 22-Sep-2012 03:23 PM
Beautiful photos of Beautiful furry people Vale Lily, we miss you. Tarneka is the big sister to Coco the newly rescued fur baby..
Jodie commented on 23-Sep-2012 12:31 AM
What a beautiful photo and a tragic story. The timing of this pic is amazing, in fact the pic is amazing. Sad time for the family, wonderful memories I hope. All the best.

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Melbourne Pet Photography - Better Homes and Garden Show

Lesley O'Donnell - Saturday, March 03, 2012

Waiting for the gates to open on day two

A huge thanks to my lovely friends, Leanne, Susie and Fi for assisting me to man, or should that be woman, my stand at the Better Homes and Gardens show last weekend. It was Melbourne’s hottest weekend this summer and was a real scorcher with two of the days reaching 37 degrees with the third cooling to a mild 34! The fierce heat was replaced with winds so strong the perimeter fence blew over so our endurance was certainly tested. Non of us would normally choose to be outside in such heat so ladies your efforts were all the more appreciated.


Seeking the last bit of shade and relief from the fan

Thanks also to my partner Richard who helped me hang the display and put it all together. Top effort!  As always, you were a supportive gem.

And a special thank you to all my wonderful clients and their pets for allowing me to share a snippet of your lives. You bring fun and satisfaction into my life. 

Guess who commented on 04-Mar-2012 09:34 AM
Wow what a time you have had and what great friends you have to help you in such HOT weather. Have been over there in heat like that and thought I was going to die after getting lost and having to walk a long way back. Just the same wish I could be over
there again one day. Who knows?

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