People tend to always ask me “What is the best assignment you’ve done as a photographer?” and I have to think about it, since I have been fortunate to have so many great experiences that it’s hard to pick one as the best. I can pretty much guarantee the worst….the house full of cats.
So my first assignment on that Monday morning is a call to head to a house on the Gault Road in West Saint John, where the SPCA will be seizing a bunch of cats….
I get there and the SPCA officer, Mark LeBlanc and Lori Craft are waiting for the power to be shut off. Mark asks me if I’ve brought a mask “Um…. No.” I said, to which he replied, “this is pretty bad, and I’ve been to some bad places.” The large smile on his face was not very comforting…
So i go back to the car and get a set of waders from the trunk to wear to protect my only good pair of shoes and my pants. Thankfully an inspector with the city has a mask in his truck.
So we go to the back door behind the house, and the smell hits me. I ask Mark if this is as bad as it gets, and he just laughs. Lori tells us to make sure we breathe through our mouths, not our noses.
I get inside, and there are like 30 cats surround by a thick LAYER of cat feces and cat hair everywhere. Imagine the worst smelling litter box you have ever smelled in your life, then double it and add the smell of something that’s died.
Cats are all nicey nice and come up to us, probably thinking we are going to feed them. Then Mark wrangles one in with his rope/pole thingamabob. You ever see a cat freak out? Well, like i mentioned about the smell, when they get snagged with the pole thingy, double the freak out you’ve seen….and add the smell of cat urine. With all the screetching and claws flailing, the other cats scatter.
Oh, did I forget to mention the bathtub full of cat poop? Seriously, full of cat poop. I couldn’t even bring myself to photograph it.
I was in for about 5 minutes and when I got outside I reeked of cat piss. I took a few breaths, and went back in. But by that time the cats had pretty much hidden under the rotting beds, in holes in the wall, and under the tub full of poop. I had had enough and had gotten some great photos, so we decided to head back to the office.
Me and the reporter drove back with all the windows down. The photo editor phoned me to tell me I was supposed to go take some business man’s picture, to which I responded “ummm….i smell like cat piss, so I really think I should go home and shower and change….” He agreed, but just to make sure he understood completely the magnitude of the problem, I stopped by his desk after dropping off the reporter so he could get a whiff….and promptly told me to get the hell out of there and go home.
I did and was able to get rid of most of the smell off me. The camera bag on the other hand, it stunk. It took a few days and a few cans of Febreeze to make it usable again.
I don’t know what the SPCA officers get paid, but it aint enough.
ps-don’t have a house full of cats and then die. If you do, please make sure someone takes care of them. Because if you don’t, the SPCA will end up putting them down anyway.
However, the worst job i think i’ve ever witnessed was on a pig farm near Woodstock. The crazy part about that assignment was that I had to shoot it with waterproof disposable cameras. To prevent disease, anything entering the farm had to be disinfected, and I wasn’t going to put my $2000 nikons through the chemical…
So, this french girl sat in a room where a batch of piglets were herded into. She would pick them up one by one and clip their tails and their teeth. The smell wasnt bad, but the squealing was deafening…the girl worn earphones and listened to a walkman, obviously to prevent insanity.
Actually another guy had a worse job there….but i don’t know if i want to say what it is….it involves the procreation process of pigs….no pictures will be posted of that one….
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