My first dream, a Vet
I always wanted to care for animals. My dream was to be a vet. My pets got sick when I was younger and it was painful to have to let them go. Vets help animals get better. I wanted to be a vet.
Towards the end of my vet studies, I met a lady who had come to the vet clinic I was interning at. Her dog was very sick and did not look like she was going to get better. As she was leaving the clinic, I felt the strong need to go and talk to her. It was during that conversation that I realised how much a person could care for and love their animals.
Even though I loved animals, this woman's life seemed to depend on them. She told me that her dog is her whole world and has helped her through some difficult parts of her life. Not even her own family was there for her the way her dog was. That encounter pulled at my heartstrings. I knew that when I graduated as a vet, I would do everything I could to help animals and people alike.
My second dream, a Pet Photographer
When I started my first year as a Veterinarian, I also started to have a passion for photography. It was fun and enjoyable and I saw God's creation and beauty through my camera. To marry my two passions, I started Furry Munchkins Pet Photography. I photograph animals and capture their relationship with their people. I felt that I was living the dream I never knew that I had.
The dissatisfaction within me
Yet, there was always something within me that left me dissatisfied. My work as a vet became about myself. I asked questions like "How could I make this animal better so that I don't have to leave the clinic late again" or "So that others can see how good a vet I am". "So that my clients who look up to me can thank me or say how amazing I am".
I wish I didn't feel this way, but I did. If people got upset with me, I would think that I was a terrible vet and human being. At night, I couldn't switch off thinking about all the sick animals that still weren't better. If people said "Good job, Keefe!" I would feel good about myself. The same happened as the Pet Photography business started to grow. If people spent money on our products and services, it meant they valued my work. It meant they valued me!
In the first few years of my working life, I saw the loss of my friend and Veterinary colleague who had taken her own life. In my waking hours, I was anxious and fearful. I wanted to escape from this fear. Maybe if I worked harder, studied more, and became better at what I do, those feelings would go away. But it didn't! In fact, anxiety plagued me even more. Even my successes only lasted for those brief moments. I later found out that this was commonplace throughout the Vet industry.
I realised that I wasn't alone
I thought this only happened to people in our industry. But, it wasn't. I came to find out that fellow entrepreneurs and photographers were facing the same thing! Many people wear many hats. As a Vet, I'm also an anaesthetist, surgeon, radiologist, counsellor... the list goes on. As a solopreneur, I'm also in charge of marketing, customer service, delivery of products, and photography. As a person doing many things at once, I didn't see myself, ME, as someone with value. My identity was in the things I did in my work and not in who I am as a person.
2020-2021 was a crazy year for us all. Things have not been easy, but God has been good to us during this time. Our team grew to include four others who wanted to join me in my endeavour to take photos of pets. I'm so thankful to God for them. I also quit my Vet job before we went into lockdown. It was important for me to give my 100% to growing this business and caring for my staff. Also, for selfish reasons, I wanted to be in it to grow this business into something that would please me.
Photo (above): The team at Furry Munchkins Pet Photography: Abbel (left), Helena, Mavis and Kim (right)
This was my story, or so I thought. During the lockdown, I've been able to see things with a new lens. I like to think of it as God giving me a 'lens of hope' to add to my camera equipment. The lockdown created a huge breakdown and pause my plans. We had to reschedule all our photo shoots countless times. I felt defeated at that time, I couldn't think of a way to "plan" my way out of this.
I had to wait and seek God for direction, to be faithful to Him.
God's story, not mine
It took me many weeks of coming to Him every morning and night. He spoke words of hope, love and peace through the Bible. I felt Him say to me that this is His story to tell and not mine. Today, God is transforming me into a person I never knew I could be. God has reminded me of my identity. It is not found in being a husband, son, brother, friend, Vet, Entrepreneur, or Pet Photographer. But, it is my identity in Christ. Today, I live my life just doing one thing... Being faithful to God. I've come to realise the hard and long way that I'm not the hero or saviour of my story. Rather, I am an active participant and partner in God's story to love and care for others.
Photo (above): Sydney, NSW captured by Keefe at Sydney Olympic Park.
Our new direction
Today, Furry Munchkins Pet Photography is going through the same transformation that I am. I don't know what that would look like in a few months or years. All I know is that it is ongoing and we're headed in a new direction, God's direction. We're refocusing on something that God has called us to from the very beginning. To focus on people first - to serve and to show them God's love in all that we do. In and through our work, we aim to change lives and bless others.
For everyone who has supported us all this time, thank you for sticking alongside us on this journey. We hope that you will continue to do so in our new phase of work, service and ministry. You don't need to book a pet photoshoot for us to show you love and care. If you would be willing for us to come alongside you in your own walk, regardless of where you're at, please feel free to reach out to talk further.
You're not alone. God loves you too!
Photos (above): Some of the photos from our pet photo shoots that bring a smile to my face and to our clients.