Mike Bender and Doug Chernack created AwkwardFamilyPetPhotos.com after the success of their hilarious website AwkwardFamilyPhotos.com. The site, featuring weirdly wonderful portraits of people and their pets, is a great time-suck when you’re looking to get lost in the Internets. But let’s face it, sometimes we need a break from being online. Luckily, there’s now a book, published by Three Rivers Press, featuring some of the best, most awkward pet portraits from the site.
As on AwkwardFamilyPetPhotos.com, the photos in the book are prefaced with witty, concise titles and are followed by a humorous caption. Bender and Chernack, who come from screenwriting and television production background, have a chance to show off their knack for clever wordplay in these instances. Here’s an example — one of my favorites from early on in the book.
But some of the photos warrant more than just a silly, short caption — these pics are accompanied by a longer backstory about the people and pets in the pictures. For example, there’s a high school yearbook photo of a kid named Jake. Authors Bender and Chernak were able to get Jake to explain: Students were given the instructions to bring a “favorite memento” to their photoshoot to let their “personality shine.” Neither an athlete or a brainiac, Jake brought his cat Patches to the photoshoot. The cat lover in me doesn’t see anything wrong with that! Although, Jake does add that Patches left a few “scatalogical” presents at school. Oops!
And then there’s Jennifer, a woman from Hibbing, Minnesota, who tells us the story about her pet cockatiel Bobby. Jennifer got Bobby when she was 18 and left home. Missing the dog she left behind with her family, she decided to look for a new feathered friend. At the pet store, she was presented with “the most hideous, featherless, pathetic-looking bird I’d ever seen.” The employee explained that the bird was “so fragile, it would need constant care and attention” (a testament to the state of animals sold in pet stores… ahem!). Jennifer couldn’t say no to the helpless little bird, and took it home. From then on, she says, they were inseparable.
All that heartwarming stuff is sweet, but Awkward Family Pet Photos wouldn’t be Awkward Family Pet Photos without the completely esoteric and absurd pictures. Like this one, titled Spotty:
The book also features collections of photos. My favorites being the “Cat Guys” (boys who got around not getting pussy by getting pussies) and “Wingmen” (men who got around not getting laid by getting birds that lay… eggs).
Aside from the more common domesticated pets — you know, the dog, cat, bird, and rabbit, rat, ferret — Awkward Family Pet Photos includes portraits of people with their pet goats, sugar gliders, possums, skunks, and yes, exotic animals like chimps, wild cats, and alligators. I don’t condone people having exotic wild animals for pets, but I think many of those photos were taken back in the day, when people might not have been as sensitive to animal welfare or realized what harm they were doing to these creatures. At least, I hope that’s the case!
The thing that struck me most when flipping through this Awkward Family Pet Photos is that there’s real heart in these images, even in the silliest and strangest ones. The pet owners obviously have so much love for their furry, feathered, and scaled friends, so much that they’re including them in these most precious memorializations of their lives — their family photos. To them, these aren’t mere animals, but family members — what some might consider their kids and siblings. In fact, we pet people can’t help but include Fluffy, Dooley, P. Kitty, Biggie, et. al; it just would be way more awkward not to!
All images from Awkward Family Pet Photos