The tale (tail) of a pet photographer’s journey
My name is Barb Hays and I’ve been wild about animals—all of them—my entire life.
A little backstory—My mom wasn’t much of an animal lover (understatement alert!) And so, we were never able to have pets when I was growing up—at least not until a stray dog showed up at our home one day and refused to leave. She was a friendly and sweet girl, a beautifully crafted mix of Samoyed and German Shepherd. My mom named her “Muffin” and she became our family’s first dog.
Muffin didn’t live in our house proper; she stayed in the garage, basement or laundry room. (My mother had her limits, after all!) Muffin was terrified of thunderstorms, loved to chase chipmunks, and my mom dutifully drove to McDonald’s each and every morning to get an Egg McMuffin for our beloved Muffin. (Seriously!) She had fallen hard for dear Muffin too.
I was in high school at the time, with the normal awkward teenage angst and trying to fit in. Muffin quickly became my confidante and my best friend. I was crazy about her. She was pretty wild about me too. When she passed away, I was inconsolable with a profound sense of loss. It was my first (but certainly not my last) experience with the grief of losing a pet.
I was always the kind of kid who preferred to hang out with the horses (and cows, pigs, chickens, farm dogs and cats, etcetera) rather than visiting with my farm-owning cousins, aunts and uncles—the keepers of those glorious creatures. I loved simply “observing” animals. Watching their behaviors, their interactions with one another, and the ways in which I might gain their trust.
I was the kind of kid who would wait for my mother’s inattention while at our local shopping mall, only to make a fast break for the pet store to see all the puppies. (Don’t judge—I was a little kid, and it was the late 1960’s.) Mom always knew exactly where she could find me.
I shared the aspirations of so many little girls who love animals. I wanted to be a veterinarian when I grew up. Failing that, becoming a famous actress or a roller derby queen were also at the tippy-top of my possible career choices.
It wasn’t until high school that I discovered how truly inept I was at chemistry, which quickly dashed any hope of becoming an animal doctor. Instead, I became a psychology major with a focus on animal behavior and learning. I was in my element! But what to do with that knowledge?
I kicked around a few jobs after college, making a decent living, but those jobs were simply a means to pay the bills.
Something was missing.
It wasn’t until I began volunteering at my local animal shelter that the siren song of animals returned with a vengeance, so I did what any logical adult would do, I quit my job and went back to school for an animal science degree.
I suffered through chemistry (and calculus and physics) this time around—all so I could work in a shelter and help animals. Immediately after graduation, I began my career in animal welfare—in an animal shelter!! I was right where I’d always belonged.
I began taking pictures of pets (lots of them!) while working in shelters. And while I didn’t really intend to become a photographer, I quickly got hooked.
The little nuances that make every animal unique inspired me to practice, learn, and invest in proper camera gear so I could portray homeless animals in a way that made them stand out in the crowd—and get adopted into a loving new home. I found that capturing that special image of an animal allowed an immediate insight into their soul. There’s something so captivating in their eyes…
After 30-ish years spent in the sheltering world, it was time for a change—and something a bit less grueling to the human mind and body. My love of animals and my obsession with photographing them has brought me to this point in time. I can’t do without animals or photography in my life, and that’s where you will hopefully enter my story.
It would be a privilege to spend time with you and the animals that make your life story more complete.
When I’m not hanging around with my own menagerie of dogs, cats, birds and a bunny, you’ll most likely find me outside…whether gardening, hiking, biking, kayaking or tracking down birds, wildlife, or any other unsuspecting animals I can find to photograph.
P.S.—I readily admit, I’m a bit of a beer snob too.
Where does the name “Windhound” come from?
I met my first Afghan hound as a young girl and I’ve been enchanted with these whimsical and elegant sighthounds since. These high-speed athletes run like the wind; thus, they are sometimes called Windhounds.
I’ve adopted many Afghan hounds over the years, while also providing temporary foster care for numerous rescued Afghans and greyhounds as they awaited their new homes.
I love all dogs, whether mixes or purebreds, but my heart belongs to the mysterious and ancient breeds known as the Windhounds. It seems fitting to pay homage to these wonderful dogs who have given me so much joy by honoring their lives and memories through my photography business.
Why choose me as your pet photographer?
Speaking their language.
No matter how laid back, wild, or just plain silly, I’ve interacted with all kinds of animals during my 30-ish year career in the animal sheltering field, so there isn’t much they can conjure up that will surprise me. Understanding unique personalities and behaviors will bring out the very best in your pup using only positive reinforcement…and a whole bunch of noisemakers, toys and tasty treats.
There’s no pressure.
Our time together is meant to be easy and enjoyable for you and your best pal. While we’ll have a general plan in mind, your dog will dictate how we go about each session. If your pup needs frequent breaks to burn off energy, I’ll bring out the tennis ball. If he or she is more of a low-key type, we’ll find a quiet spot and have a good ear-scratching session. This is their time to shine. They’ll be the ultimate architect of the session and we’ll adapt to them.
Quality and personalized service matters.
I limit my sessions to just two clients per week. I believe every dog and every relationship is unique and requires my full attention. Sessions are personalized to fit your vision and needs. If you can dream it, we can create it. From start to finish, I’ll guide you every step of the way.
You’ll get years of experience.
You’re hiring a pet photographer with a degree in Animal Science and a degree in Psychology/Animal Behavior. Knowing what makes animals tick is essential to pet photography. I’ve photographed thousands of shelter animals of all species over many years. There is nothing better than knowing a deserving animal found the next love of their life because of a high-quality image. Photography has the power to not only change a life, but it can also often save a life.
Your satisfaction is my highest priority.
This isn’t a weekend hobby or side hustle for me; it’s my full-time profession. I promise you’ll have a memorable experience with the highest level of service from start to finish and your session will result in amazing images from a dedicated pet professional. We’ll have a damn good time doing it too!