Last Sunday, as I have on most Sundays since last autumn, I went to the public shelter at Orange County, Florida, and photographed a list of some of the stray, impounded, abandoned and surrendered dogs that had accumulated at the shelter in the preceding three days. Following the shoot and a detour to Home Depot for some unscheduled repairs to our photographic backdrop, I went home to process my photos and post them on this website in time to allow the shelter staff to upload the photos on Monday morning. All routine, time-consuming and emotionally exhausting, as usual.
Fast forward several days and my wife, Joan, received a call from her sister in Pennsylvania. The pictures of two dogs had touched her and she was calling to offer to help them. This is the sort of feedback we hope for, though we also hope it comes from persons beyond family and friends. But whenever it occurs, it is fulfilling because it validates the soundness of the concept behind our efforts. But, as we all know, no good deed goes unpunished.
What followed consumed four full days with details, setbacks, complications, more setbacks and a confluence of events, both international and local. Even the G-8 summit of nations going on in Washington DC managed to be a factor in our efforts to adopt two dogs and transport them to Pennsylvania. One dog my sister-in-law selected is this one:
This dog, which I renamed Braxton, after the great new music composer and musician, Anthony Braxton, was to be flown out by a rescue service, but the flight had to be rescheduled to an ungodly hour to avoid air space restrictions caused by the G-8 summit. This schedule dictated how and when we picked him up and handled him in the days prior to the flight. To make matters more interesting, we discovered he is panicked by being crated. Still, he is a wonderful dog whom I miss already.
The other dog Joan renamed Bella. This is her picture:
After we picked-up Braxton we dropped him at our regular vet for an examination, as he needed a health certificate for his rescue flight. We returned to the shelter for Bella, to take her to an orthopedic surgeon. We knew going in that Bella had a broken leg. However, as we departed we noted that she was making little noises, which the shelter staff indicated was a newly diagnosed case of kennel cough. The surgeon was not hopeful that the surgery would help her significantly, estimating the break to be at least two weeks old. He indicated it was likely that she would remain lame and suffer from arthritis later in life. But that was for later. Surgery could not be considered if she had respiratory issues. So Bella returned with us to our regular vet, where she was examined, X-rayed and diagnosed with fully involved pneumonia. She is now on an IV to rehydrate her and three antibiotics to try to combat her pneumonia. If she survives, she faces leg surgery and eight weeks of recovery and rehabilitation. We face the bills and the tasks associated with caring for this little dog. I slept on the kitchen floor with Braxton and doubtless there will be other nights with Bella spent in places other than my bed.
Recently, someone with a degree after her name - indicating that she should know better - wrote to me for the purpose of insulting me after I flagged her ad on Craigslist. The ad offered a fostered dog for "rehoming" at a price. Among the insults she heaped on me was that I am "just a picture taker." There is a saying that goes, "The camera looks both ways." If I do it right, then, the pictures I take illustrate the souls of the dogs I shoot, and my own as well. For flagging her ad I offer no apologies, nor do I apologize for being "just a picture taker," with all that it entails.
My name is Erin and I have had the pleasure of assisting Pawsitive Shelter Photography brighten the lives of some really wonderful animals. Each and every time we go to OCAS there is always at least one animal that tugs at my heart, but until a few Sundays ago, I would have never thought a pair of big brown eyes and a damp nose could get me to add another furry kid to my family - I was wrong and my family and I are thrilled about it.
Rigby, as he’s known now, stood out among his kennel mates as attentive and relaxed when I first met him and by the time I walked him over for his turn in front of the camera, I was smitten. Once I convinced my husband that he would also fall in love with this sweet boy, we put in our application and had the long wait (well, it felt long) for him to be neutered, so that he could come to his forever home. In the meantime, we stopped by every day to spend a little time with him and get to know more of his personality. Even with the stress of his situation, Rigby maintained that same wonderful demeanor that initially attracted me to him.
Finally, the big day came and we were able to bring our new baby home after his surgery. Once we got him settled into his room, he wanted nothing more than to cuddle up with us and to be loved. Since that day, he has proven to be an exceptionally wonderful and sweet addition to our family. Rigby has met and exceeded all of my expectations and I can’t imagine why he was picked up as an underfed stray, but I know that I am lucky to have had the chance to bring this sweet boy into our family. I can only hope that Pawsitive Shelter Photography helps others find the joyful connection with a special pet that my family and I have been able to have with Rigby.
My name is Joan. Every weekend since October Paul and I (and our colleagues) have gone to Orange County Animal Services (OCAS) to work on the "Pawsitive Photography" project. We do this to share the beauty and souls of the dogs at the shelter, hoping to assist in finding them good and permanent homes. We also come to this project as responsible and caring dog owners for over twenty years.
When we began this project, I was like many others, was afraid of pit bulls, bulldogs and several other breeds. I knew them to be fierce, unloving and aggressive. But now, after spending so much time with them and handling several hundred of the dogs I used to fear, I have found that these dogs are just like dogs of any other breed, and that each dog needs to evaluated individually. Most are sweet dogs, just wanting some love and affection. Additionally, we have realized that we are starting to be able to pick out the particularly gentle, smart and cooperative dogs. Although these are dogs that I am meeting under conditions that are particularly stressful for them, their personalities often come through within a few minutes of interacting with them. So if you are looking for inside tips about which dogs at OCAS seem to us to be particularly good options for adoption as family members, please check our blog at least weekly. We will try to mention the ones that stands out to us and to explain why.
This past Sunday I fell particularly hard for WD38-A227517. The first of three (3) photos of her can be seen here: http://shelterphotos.zenfolio.com/p36107087/he9ce5a3#he9ce5a3
To look at her, she may not be pretty in the "conventional sense" usually associated with desirable dogs, but she is both distinctive and a charmer. Once I spent time holding her and petting her, I found that she was a completely gentle and sweet dog. She just wanted love and she returned the affection I gave her. She is the perfect example of why we should not judge a dog by "face value," but rather we should look inside to see the gentleness that awaits us. I recommend Wd38-A227517 as an adoptable pet and great family dog. Go see for yourself.
This is Paul. This past weekend I helped photograph WD49-A227517. This dog is a pretty, multicolored hound of some type. OCAS refers to him as a basset hound-dachshund mix, although our guess of a beagle mix is probably just as valid. The list we received from OCAS labeled him as fearful, and sure enough the dog was reluctant to be leashed and even walked. I carried him around for a couple of minutes and he sat quietly in my arms. But as often happens, a few minutes with a dog can be profound therapy for both dog and handler alike. Within five minutes, this dog was walking with me, wagging his tail, sniffing at grass and at other dogs, and he appeared ready to play. He was gentle and calm and I was happy to be in his company.
Because OCAS must take in any animal that the public surrenders, the number of dogs that arrive with physical or psychological issues (or both) can be high. This dog may have been abused. He certainly suffered some trauma. But I strongly suspect that within a day or two of being placed in a home environment, this dog will thrive and return a lot of love. His dilemma reinforces my growing belief that dogs don't need licensing as much as dog owners do. The first of three (3) photos of WD49-227517 can be seen here: http://shelterphotos.zenfolio.com/p36107087/h1c39506e#h1c39506e
I think this dog would make an excellent companion and family pet and I urge you to go and spend some time meeting him. When you do, be sure to pet his head and scratch his ears for me.
My name is Paul. Each Sunday I spend a full 12 hours photographing, processing and posting the best images I can create of 10 to 20 dogs recently taken in by Orange County (Florida) Animal Services. Other volunteer colleagues do the same on Wednesdays. However, we can not begin to cover the approximately 15,000 animals that annually pass through the entrance of this one county-run shelter. Less than one-half of those that enter are ultimately reclaimed, adopted or rescued. The rest are destroyed. Neither I nor my colleagues in this endeavor can abide these statistics and the purpose of our collective photographic efforts, simply put, is to save more lives.
Since we began in mid-October, 2011, we have photographed roughly 400 dogs, and we have been rewarded with anecdotal stories of animals that have been seen in our pictures and adopted, and we have received compliments and expressions of support and approval in various social media forums. I can tell you that the personal satisfaction I derive from even the possibility that I have contributed to saving the life of an innocent animal is like no other feeling I have experienced in my life. This volunteer work, these animals, have become a passion.
Although our work is of necessity high-volume and conducted more-or-less in an assembly-line fashion, each of us has come across at least one dog that has touched our heart, our soul or perhaps something more elemental and organic in us. This occurs despite personal circumstances that do not permit many of us to take more dogs into our homes.
In early February, 2012 I helped photograph WD17, a smallish brown and white pit bull. When I first opened his cage he sat erect on his bed, calm and still, both front legs and paws straight and together. He allowed me to leash him. He walked beside me to the outside run and sniffed and explored for the few minutes we had together. He was well-behaved and an almost cooperative model, sitting just has he had when I met him. He returned obediently to his cage. The measure I took of him - by instinct - was that of an old soul residing in a smart dog.
I was in the shelter a few days later and was not surprised to see that he had not been adopted. Pit bulls and related mixes, after all, usually do not get adopted even though they are far and away the most common breed or mix of breeds that come to the shelter. On this occasion I was present during public viewing hours, and as though I was passing along a hot tip on a sure bet, I told anyone and everyone who would listen that the dog in WD17 was a really good dog. Most people simply shrugged and moved on down the aisle. During the week I tried to follow his progress online, and by the next Sunday I was discouraged to find him still lying quietly in his cage. After our shoot, I took him outside for a few minutes. I notice that he shivered occasionally.
I prevailed on the always cooperative staff to keep him around and I let it be known that I was willing to pay for his medical treatment. He had been found to be heartworm positive and he also developed an upper respiratory infection. My colleagues put out the word about this dog, posting information about him on social media, and the shelter staff pointed him out to over 50 partner rescue groups. Still there was no interest and I was despairing for him. This past Tuesday evening one of the staff warned me that WD17 was on "the list" and his time was short. That night I could not sleep, waking often, each time with this dog immediately and foremost in my thoughts.
Wednesday was spent blessedly distracted, with my mother, my sister and her incredible six year-old daughter visiting us from out of town. But on Thursday morning I received truly great news from two separate shelter staff members, each eager to share the news. WD17 was being spared. He had been selected by a rescue group and was scheduled to be neutered on Friday and transported to Tampa to a waiting foster home. The staff members were genuinely happy for me and for this dog, and my mood soared for having worked to save his life. I thanked them for their unfailing kindness, compassion and support. I contacted the rescue and made the appropriate financial arrangements. The news capped my day, and what better example could I set for my young niece as I tried to explain to her why I was so happy? The sun was a little warmer and the sky was just a touch bluer than normal.
This morning, Friday, the phone rang. It was the rescue organization. They told me that WD17 had been euthanized by the shelter three days earlier, on Tuesday. The story of WD17 is concluded, abruptly and ignominiously. The why is silent.
Photos of WD17 can be viewed here, in our February, 2012 Shelter Dog Photos. He is the first dog shown. http://shelterphotos.zenfolio.com/p1944766