Book Review – In Good Company: Notable People with Their Pets

Book

Pets, whether they be dogs, cats, birds, or even reptiles and rodents, can have a calming effect on their human owners. 

Or to paraphrase an often-quoted saying, pets are a person’s best friend.

And that message is vividly – and pictorially – well embodied in the book In Good Company.

This attractive coffee table volume is a collection of photos and stories of a number of notable personalities from different walks of life – like actors, musicians, politicians, athletes, journalists and activists – are lovingly photographed by Johanna Siegmann, and accompanied by a brief description of the story behind each photo that are featured in the book. Some of the personalities that are featured in the book with their respective pets include Ed Asner, Ed Begley Junior, Dee Wallace, Congressman Adam Schiff, and Norman Lear.

“You don’t have to own a pet to love this book,” proclaimed Ms. Siegmann during a recent phone interview. She got the idea for the book quite accidentally, when she went to photograph some headshots of one of her friends.

“While I was doing the head shots, her ancient dog happened to hobble into the room. She told me that the dog was arthritic, and would soon no longer be around. So she asked me to take some pictures of the dog,” she said. “I went on the floor with my camera to get the right perspective. It became an epiphany moment for me; through those photos, I captured the love and magic between a pet and its owner. That’s when I knew this is what I want to do.”

Ms. Siegmann believes that the bond between a pet and their human owner is not only that of a mutual expression of love, but also as an antidote for the stresses of everyday life. “Pets are how we connect with our hearts,” she said. “They make us more grounded, and feel like a much better, genuine person. The message pets convey to their owners is ‘feed me, play with me, love me.’ It give us a burst of energy and squeezes the heart, too.”

About one-third of the photos that appear in the book were taken last year, and there was a complete process Ms. Siegmann had with the chosen pets and owners, especially with the development of the concept of the photo, and the logistics of scheduling the photo session. “Another part of the intake process was what are the motivators for the pets to cooperate during the photo session, which can take in the form of food, toys or sounds,” she said. “When shooting the photos I have one inalienable rule: don’t stress out the pet. I wanted to created a sense of respect with the pet in question. Sometimes, I used a squeaky toy and if all else failed, I made my own squeaky sounds.”

Sometimes the motivating factor can be a little out of the ordinary, whether it be feeding black forest ham (trumpeter Arturo Sandoval), providing a pet’s favorite treat of frozen baby mice and chicks (filmmaker Gren Wells), or peanut butter placed in the owner’s ear (actor Gina Hecht).

But sometimes the ideal snapshots came about when the original concept just wasn’t working out, which was the case with actor Richard Karn (best known as Tim Allen’s sidekick Al on Home Improvement) and his dog Lola.

“There were times that an original photo concept wasn’t working for a number of reasons, and I can feel the stress that was getting to the pet, so I would come up with some other ideas on the spot,” she said. “That was the case with Richard Karn. The original photo concept that involved him and Lola centred around the Tool Time show-within-a-show from Home Improvement, but it just wasn’t panning out. So I saw Richard’s pool table and he told me Lola loved playing with all kinds of balls. We tried about three or four different concepts with Richard and Lola at the pool table and they all worked well.”

This charming book of photos of pets and their prominent owners is also helping the cause of another breed of animal. A percentage of sales of the book In Good Company will benefit the Apex Protection Project, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to the protection of wolves and wolfdogs through education, rescue and advocacy.

“Helping out Apex was a clear cut choice for me,” she said. “They do a lot of good things towards the protection of wolves since the 1930s. Their cause and effect spoke to me because predators play an important role in our ecosystem.”

Stuart Nulman
By: Stuart Nulman – [email protected]

Other articles from mtltimes.ca – totimes.ca – otttimes.ca

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