Fur and feather photographer retires, looks back on time

Samantha Hill

After holding down the cutest job in Park County, a local woman retired after 25 years with Stafford Animal Shelter.

For two decades, Yvonne Venturino has taken pictures of over 20,000 cats, dogs, slithery snakes, fluffy rabbits and more as a way to help get those animals a new home. She officially retired from her position in February.

Venturino, 59, who started out doing photography for her husband’s magazine articles, began volunteering with the shelter in 1992. Not only did she take photos but she also did any kind of work she could find such as cleaning cages and feeding animals.

She started as a volunteer but after ten years and a lot of time spent, Stafford told her to come work for the shelter full time.

Venturino said during her time with the shelter she would do just about anything to get a good photo of the animals.

“They would get mustaches, funny hats, anything for the animals to get someone to just look at the animals,” Venturino said.

All of the costumes for all of the smaller animals such as the birds were handmade while the bigger animals would wear thrift store items as well as baby and doll clothes, modified to fit the animals.

She said she has two photos that she considers her favorite. One was of a husky, she dressed as the big bad world looking like grannie complete with a bonnet and shawl.

“The dog would pull the costume off 10 times,” she said, before begging it to sit still. “I finally got his photo.”

The other photo is of a dog that had a unique spot on its back, she said. Venturino thought to herself that she wanted the dog’s back to face her while the dog looked back. The dog was able to pose just as she wanted.

“I don’t want to say what it is but sometimes they just know,” she said.

However, Venturino has had to deal with her fair share of rascally animals as well as some that she didn’t really want to touch such as tarantulas and some biting lizards and cranky parrots.

She said taking these photos could have been even more challenging without the help of staff at the shelter, helping to hold the animals or posing them in a specific way.

Despite her retirement two months ago, Venturino is still adjusting to this new way of life. She said she still has the energy to continue to pursue other interests and she doesn’t know what her next steps will be but her love for animals will continue.

Venturino will celebrate her retirement from 4 to 6 p.n. May 21 during a party at the Livingston Food Resource Center.