In Short: Up Close and Personal.
As a pet photographer, I have photographed many different animals. One day I received a call from a woman who asked me if I could photograph her cougar! I asked her to say that again. Once I realized she was serious, I said yes.
The day of the appointment I drove out to her place. When I pulled in the driveway, I quickly realized this was going to be an interesting place as my car was surrounded by a half dozen great danes, all of which were taller than my car. Not wanting to get out right away with them around, I waited until the owner came out.
When she told the dogs to leave, I gathered my equipment and followed her into the house where the full grown female cougar was lying on the living room couch!
I asked the owner how she could keep this big cat on her property. Because she was out in the country, she said. It had been taken away from her once, she told me, but they returned it after they checked it over to assure it was healthy.
I asked the owner where she would like the pictures taken, and she suggested in the sunroom. I set up my equipment as she called the cougar into the room. I started with some shots of the cat lying on the floor. After a few of these shots, the cougar stood up and started walking toward me. I continued to take photos as the cougar came. I backed up against the door and had no more room to move.
The only thing between us was my Mamiya medium format camera. She was that close. Then she started to growl. When she opened her mouth I could see her canine teeth, which were huge. She was coming closer to me and growling louder. Knowing that you cannot show fear around animals, I tried very hard to stay calm and relaxed. The owner was out of the room and her mother was sitting on the couch. Her mother said to me that the cougar was trying to be friendly to me. Right at that time, the owner came back in and said that is not what the cougar was doing. The big cat was not happy having me there. The owner yelled at the cat to come to her and she went over and jumped on the couch. I let out a huge sigh of relief.
The owner suggested we go outside to take more pictures, which I was happy to do. She put the cougar on a leash and led her outside. I took a few pictures of the cat on the leash. I also got a shot of it cuddling with the owner, but still growling at me.
Outside, the owner had built a large enclosure for the cougar. It was a fenced area with trees, tires and other items the cougar could play with. The owner of the cougar then suggested I take some photos of the cougar inside her enclosure. I declined! One thing I know is that I would not survive 5 minutes inside that enclosure with her!
I wish I had been able to get better photos, but I was very happy to have the experience. The owner was happy with the photos when I returned with them.
Not too long after I took them, the Humane Society came and took it away.
Brian Elliott spent 20 years as a professional photographer in Brantford, Ontario, Canada, photographing pets, babies, proms, graduations, etc. He has also been a business owner, truck driver, warehouse manager, and school bus driver.
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