…You and Your Animal Kin

You see a spirit in them that connects with your spirit. I understand, because I’ve also had those strong relationships with many different animals in my life. I understand that each of us has a unique story to tell.  I’d like to share my story with you…

My Hairy Family

My love of animals began when I was an infant. I shared my playpen  (or was it his?) with the family puppy, Tramp. I’m told that we spent many hours playing and napping together. We weren’t just playmates – we grew up together, and for many years we were family to each other. I’ll never forget when an ancient Tramp, full of pain and unable to live his life with quality, was taken to the vet while I was at school. When I came home he wasn’t there. I still feel regret that we didn’t have the opportunity to say goodbye. This had a profound effect on me. Since that time, animals have played an ever-deepening role in my life. 

My bond with animals evolved into a long, rewarding, and adventurous career as a professional zookeeper. The animals taught me to approach them with less ego and with respect as equals in spirit. Through observation and an almost meditative practice, I became more receptive to a mysterious and unspoken communication which began to emerge between myself and the animals in my care. I also worked with zookeepers who had achieved strong bonds with wild animals, built on hard work, respect, and patience.  I’m grateful for what the animals and their people taught me. 

I Love Lucy (and Toto Too!)

One day a chimpanzee reached out to me and showed compassion.

I’d been injured on the job, in a lot of pain, and was in the midst of light duties at the zoo hospital. It turned out that the head chimpanzee, Toto, had his shoulder broken by a young male upstart, and was doing time in the hospital, too. His quarters were pretty spacious, yet in spite of all the toys and TLC he was getting bored and a little depressed as a result of isolation and pain. 

Toto knew me from my volunteer days, and after talking with his keeper it was agreed that it was ok for me to spend time with him.

One day I felt pretty painful, tired and a bit depressed from dealing with my own injury. I sat on the floor in front of Toto’s cage, turned on the I Love Lucy tape in the VCR player, and leaned back against the bars. Yes, Toto had his T.V. and tapes!

As we were both quietly looking at I Love Lucy, I felt Toto’s fingers gently picking at my uniform shirt. He was grooming me, a very important social activity between chimpanzees, and a way that they establish bonding with each other. Then Toto turned his shoulder to me and I groomed little bits off of his shoulder. And amazingly felt better. I believe that it helped Toto, too.

And a bond was formed.

I Continue to Get Over Myself

_MG_4708W1After zookeeping, I combined my zookeeping skills with my formal fine art photography training to connect with animals in a different way.  And they are always teaching me. I observe with patience and respect, and the magic happens. I have spent many years with a herd of Welsh ponies as they freely roam 50 acres of pasture and woods. They have come to trust and accept me as part of the herd.

Animal Healers

I’ve always been amazed, but not surprised at the profound role that animals are playing in our lives. I’m learning more about this wonderful bond all the time, through the love that I witness while photographing elders with their pets.


And photographing with amazement as a puppy helps prison inmates to feel empathy and forgiveness.


I’m also deeply committed to photographing people with their beloved animals who are close to the end of their lives, using the lessons that over the years the animals (and their people) have taught me. This is a private and sacred time, and I’m honored to be invited to help with this special   

ritual of remembrance, called SoulSessions


The Story of Magoo

Magoo was a wonderful therapy dog, and was blind and deaf all of her life. She’d helped hundreds of children during her career. When I met Magoo, she was “retired”, and had developed a painful and incurable condition. On her last day, I quietly watched and photographed as she smelled the grass and felt the love all around her. My last photograph of Magoo happened as I was leaving. I felt that I should turn and say goodbye one last time. There she was, her head lifting to feel a sudden breeze that caressed her hair.

I’ll never forget Magoo. Each of us has our unique story to tell.  I look forward to hearing yours.


Call 503-490-2480 or E-mail kzphotog@gmail.com