Meet Elvis, a Muscovy Duck I mistook for a goose, and I apologised profusely to him, especially after meeting his partner. Elvis is a nickname I bestowed the good duck, so for consistency’s sake, I will refer to his partner as Priscilla.
She definitely looked like the rocker duck’s partner, with the tamed down look and all, but she was a very protective of her Elvis, and followed him as closely as possible. So what’s the point of Elvis and Priscilla? Well, for me it was an exercise in portraiture, with the very important lesson that if I had to choose between doing human or animal portraits for a living, I will take the humans anytime! First of all, most humans will take instructions and try to follow them as closely as possible. You can also tell them to look here or there, and most importantly, to keep still (well, with most adults at least, children are a whole different ballgame). Animals, on the other hand, will try to sniff, lick, peck or bite the equipment, need to be bribed for attention, and pay no heed to instructions, camera or no camera. Not to mention that you have to work at lightning speed with animals because you have perhaps a five second window to get that shot in before you embark on another 30-minute bribe or wait.
Elvis is also my nickname for an elderly gentleman I meet along my street just about every morning. He must be well into his 80s, is grumpy as Berliner grumps come, and a chain smoker. Apparently he is not allowed to smoke at home, so he will take a walk to have a puff, greet the ducks and snort at the passers-by, looking at everyone as if we were all criminals or secret police. Today I stopped and wished him a happy new year and got a grumble in return about the bitter cold wind. Ah, but in spite of the wind and his dwindling cigarette, I finally got a smile out of him!
Benny is a wonderful Dalmatian I met today on my way home. I have bumped into him and his owner several times before but never really stopped to greet either of them. Today I decided to change things that. First of all I ran into Benny along the muddy path while he galloped away from his owner, a senior citizen somewhere between 76 and 86 years old who waddles as fast as she can behind Benny. Since he was alone when I found him on the path, I knew she could not be far behind, and true enough, a few minutes later she appeared around the bend, huffing and puffing.
Benny was too busy with the ball to stop and chat with me, but I wished his human companion a happy new year and she was thrilled that someone greeted her. It was her first Christmas and New Year without her husband, whom she lost last year, so she told me all about her trip away from Berlin with her daughter and Benny, and wailed about how expensive hotel fees for pets can be. She is learning to live alone, adjusting to life without her partner and struggling with the smallest things. She can’t change a light bulb, and sometimes taking Benny out for his daily walks is too difficult. Calling an electrician, carpenter or plumber for something her husband used to do is far too expensive and scary, and asking friends and neighbours for help is too humiliating. I understand her all too well, so I gave her my card and promised to come to her aid no matter what time of the day, even if it is just to change a light bulb!
Benny wouldn’t stand still long enough for a photograph, but I made two new friends today.