Tuesday, 10:18 AM - One of the most rewarding aspects of being an animal shelter photographer is seeing abandoned and neglected pets get a new chance at life. All the good done by animal shelters and shelter photographers can help combat the ignorance of neglectful humans.
“Lilith” was a recent happy ending at the Walton County Animal Control shelter in Monroe, Georgia. In the winter of 2017/2018, animal control began receiving calls about a thin Boxer tied out on a chain in freezing weather. After a visit from an officer, the owner got “Lilith” to the vet and she began gaining weight.
All was well. Right?
Animal control received another call in April 2018 that “Lilith” had again dropped weight. This time, the owner was charged with inhumane treatment and “Lilith” came to the shelter. The first step was to get quality photographs to be entered as evidence in the upcoming court case. Second, it was outdoors to get her some shots to post on the shelter's adoption website www.waltonpets.net and find her a new home!
“Lilith” was a such a joy for me to photograph. Although pitifully neglected and emaciated, she still had a sweet and tender personality. Being calm, she posed nicely for her photographs. And the greater joy was learning that Atlanta Boxer Rescue announced the next day that they’d take Lilith into their care for rehabilitation and re-homing! Not every case can turn out great in an open-intake shelter. But when it does, we can rejoice, as in Lilith’s case!
“What breed is ‘Miles’?” That is an email question I receive frequently; especially since I quit listing the breed on our adoptables website. For different reasons, I decided to quit listing my guess at a dog’s breed and let the photos speak for themselves. When it comes down to it, what matters most is not a dogs ‘label’, but the fact that it is in dire need of rescue!
With so many mixed breeds that come through the shelter, it can sometimes get tough to pick out a breed mix. Some shelters can get stuck in the rut of calling everything a “Lab mix”, or a “Pit mix”, or a “Chihuahua mix”. In my early days of sheltering, my coworkers poked fun at me because every black and white dog I listed was a “Border Collie mix”! But in truth, how can you really know? I often wonder if those DNA tests are even reliable.
Granted, listing a specific breed may help a dog ’s chances of adoption. I remember the flood of phone calls and shelter visits the first time I ever listed a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel mix on the shelter’s website! I think King Charles himself even called the shelter!
On the other hand, listing a specific breed might hurt a dog’s chances of adoption. There are several breeds out there whose mention evokes fear and apprehension in many people. Perhaps some of those fears are well founded. But once an individual dog has passed a temperament evaluation, should it be blacklisted by a breed label? That doesn’t seem too fair!
Sometimes we shelter folks just get it wrong (although at times, intentionally). When I was in college, I adopted a “Boxer” from the local shelter. The dog trainer gave a chuckle when I showed up for our first lesson with a beautiful American Pit Bull Terrier!
The final reason I decided to quit listing dog breeds on our adoptables website was because of the civil discourse generated on social media (yes, that is spoken with sarcasm). I frankly became tired of the critical emails.
One cross-poster recently wrote, “It would help me a lot in posting if you could always name the breed or breed mix. I sometimes can't tell if there is any "pit" in a dog. As in, "MILES" not quite sure what he is”. Another not-so-pleasant email spouted out, “TO WHOMEVER CAN HELP THIS,,, I was looking at your shelter list,,, and PATRICK does NOT look like a pitbull or a pitbull mix at all !! That dog does NOT look one little bit of bully breed. Can we change that listing? I bet any amount of money that rescuers would LIKE to save him,,, but the "pitbull" on the paperwork is an absolute deterrent”.
So, what is my answer? Let the photos speak for themselves! I strive to take quality photos and close up portraits with clear, vibrant eyes that leap off the monitor and grab a potential adopter’s heartstrings! Those eyes can do way more to make a connection. I want someone to fall in love with a particular dog, not to just pick a certain breed.
I don’t have a scientific paper to back my findings, but anecdotally, I can prove someone can truly love a mutt even without AKC papers!
"Miles" was photographed on April 4, 2018 for the Walton County Animal Control shelter and placed on the adoption website, www.waltonpet.net.
Friday, 9:17 AM - It is that time of year and love is in the air! A gaggle of boys were hanging around the household of an “in-season” female pup. (Hey folks, get your dogs spayed and neutered and this won’t happen!). When the animal control officer showed up, “Grady” was the only one to stick around and unfortunately ended up in doggy jail for stalking!
Grady probably wasn’t too well socialized outside of his owner’s home, but was a tender boy at heart. After getting him out of his kennel, he stuck close by my feet, calming his nervousness by leaning on my legs. Once the trauma of a heartworm test blood-draw and vaccine was over (for which this sweet boy didn’t even need a muzzle), it was outside for a photo shoot.
He was again a bit cautious when I pulled out that big, scary lens and pointed it right at him. Unsure of what I was up to, he took a seat on the ground and kept an eye on my camera. But before he plopped down in the pine needles, I was able to get a shot of his awesome, low-rider short legs which added to his funny personality.
“Grady” was photographed on March 23, 2018 for the Walton County Animal Control shelter in Monroe, Georgia, USA. He was showcased on the shelter’s website, www.waltonpets.net for adoption or rescue.
Tuesday, 8:44 AM - Remington, or “Rem” for short, was one of several owner surrendered dogs that were turned in to the Walton County Animal Control shelter on March 19, 2018. His owner had hip surgery and could no longer take care of such a big boy.
With the shelter getting near capacity, time was of the utmost importance. I had several dogs lined up for photo sessions this morning. We had to move some dogs out to adopters and rescues quickly to avoid bad endings.
“Rem” was a bit nervous in the kennel and it showed in a couple of his shots. But that is understandable after being removed from a home you grew up in and put into a loud kennel. But with a few pet photography tricks, I managed a bit of a head tilt and smile. A squeeky toy or ball thrown above the head can work wonders in getting those ears perked up!
I wish I had more time to give him a chance to relax and get more shots, but had to move on. That’s how it is in an open intake animal control shelter. They can’t turn people away surrendering animals and you never know when the next one is coming in.
“Remington” was photographed for the Walton County Animal Control shelter in Monroe, Georgia, USA on March 20, 2018. He was placed on the shelter’s website, www.waltonpets.net to find him an adopter or rescue.
Tuesday, 8:32 AM – I was disappointed to return to the animal shelter after weeklong mini vacation for my daughters’ spring break. Not because I don’t like work, but because “Flynn” was still in the shelter and hadn’t been adopted or rescued.
“Flynn” was picked up stray by a Walton County Animal Control officer on March 12, 2018. I was able to post a quick photo of him that Monday before leaving for the day. He was an agreeable little guy, not posing any troubles. He had a bit of hair loss, most likely due to a flea allergy, but being small and cute shouldn’t have had a problem getting out. But coming back to the shelter and seeing him still waiting, it was time for a photo session.
The Georgia springtime thunderstorms last night left a nice foggy sky perfect for outdoor photography. “Flynn” did a little bit of exploring when we first went outside, but soon began to pose for a few shots.
“Flynn” was photographed for the Walton County Animal Control shelter on March 20, 2018 and put on the shelter’s website, www.waltonpets.net.
Thursday, 8:32 AM – “Clover” was another stray dog to be picked up by a Walton County Animal Control officer in Monroe, GA. He was a very sweet, tender and gentle boy. His submissive side made it a bit difficult to get him to look at the camera. But his warm brown coat and soft black muzzle complimented the beautiful glowing sunrise on this somewhat cooler morning in early spring.
“Clover” also seemed an easy boy to get along with when it came to other dogs as well. He was all gentle wags and sniffs when being introduced to other shelter dogs. When it came to another pup that was a bit too assertive, “Clover” didn’t retaliate and just backed off and gave the other pup some space.
For some reason “Clover” was favoring his front right leg and would at times let out a little holler as we walked out to the photography spot. After his photo session, I looked more closely thinking he might have a thorn in his pad. But without seeing any visible injuries, I wasn’t sure if it was his foot, leg or shoulder. Hopefully a large-hearted rescue or adopter would come along quickly and get him checked out by a veterinarian.
“Clover” was photographed for the Walton County Animal Control shelter in Monroe, Georgia on March 8, 2018. He was posted for adoption or rescue on the shelter’s website, www.waltonpets.net.
Thursday, 2:07 PM - “If I had the room, I’d take him home!” I know, everybody says that all the time. But for me it is true with Ranger! What a big, handsome boy. I love hounds. Coonhounds, Bloodhounds, Walker Hounds, Bluetick Hounds… and those big, velvety, drooping ears are always so photogenic!
“Ranger” was surrendered to the Walton County Animal Control shelter by his owner on March 8, 2018. At least he was already neutered. Being confident he’d have a good outcome, I microchipped him as a bonus for his new owner.
Not wanting to loose time on getting him on the adoption website, www.waltonpets.net, I took him straight outdoors for a photo session. Being late afternoon, all of my shady spots were gone. Since I don’t like the look of the full sun shots, we walked over to the small hay barn by the Public Works compound.
I tethered “Ranger” to a hay bale so he couldn’t keep following me out the door. I was pleasantly surprised how the shady interior of the barn went all to black on the portraits. The other shots with the hay bales in the background really give the feel of our rural, countryside animal shelter here in the South!
“Ranger” was photographed for the Walton County Animal Control Shelter in Monroe, Georgia on March 8, 2018 and placed on the shelter’s adoption website www.waltonpets.net.
Wednesday, 2:35 PM - How irresistibly cute!!!! It seems that “puppy season” is beginning. The lengthening daylight hours and warmer weather tends to trigger love in all the critters. Each spring the shelter begins taking in puppy after puppy, kitten after kitten. If my shutter is fast enough to get them all posted quickly, we can get most of them adopted and rescued without too much of a backup.
“Waylon” was a cute little black mixed breed puppy that was surrendered to Walton County Animal Control on March 7, 2018. A gentleman and his son took in the little guy, but quickly realized the demands of such a young puppy (probably the whining demands all night long!).
I brought “Waylon” into the makeshift studio I normally use for the cats and kittens. He quickly got cozy and took a short nap under a fuzzy fleece blanket making for a cute shot!
“Waylon” was photographed on March 7, 2018 for the Walton County Animal Control shelter in Monroe, Georgia USA. He was posted on the shelter’s adoption website, www.waltonpets.net to find and adopter or rescue.
Wednesday, 9:17 AM – “Buster” is a cute low-rider mixed breed puppy that was surrendered to the Walton County Animal Control shelter in Georgia on March 6, 2018. The man who brought him in said his original owner left a few months ago and he couldn’t care for a puppy.
He is a quiet guy and sat nice and calm for his outdoor photos. With the sunrise coming earlier, I had lost my normal shady spots for his photos. I popped a little fill flash on a couple, but I don’t much care for the “harsher” look. But “Buster” is cute enough to overcome my amateur photography!
“Buster” was photographed on March 7, 2018 for the Walton County Animal Control Shelter in Monroe, Georgia and placed for adoption on the shelter’s website, www.waltonpets.net.
"Well, it started way back when…"
While getting my wildlife sciences degree from the University of Georgia’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, I had the privilege of participating in a capture and release program. No, this wasn’t like the feral cat TNR related to my job now. But it was an American Alligator tagging program!
In the spring of 1996 (yes, way back in the 1900’s), several Warnell students went to Bear Island in Swansboro, North Carolina. Often, state game and fish agencies sacrifice, I mean “utilize”, graduate and undergrad students to help in research. Our job was to capture as many alligators as we could in one weekend to measure, sex, weigh and tag.
During the day, we constructed snares along the banks. Two boards were placed upright a few feet apart to funnel alligators in toward the bait (dead fish). As they passed between the boards, their head went through a snare. As soon as the fish was grabbed, the trigger would release and a long elastic band stretched over the top of a vertical pole pulled the snare tight around the gator’s neck.
We also had the joy of going out on small, flat boats all night and into the wee hours of the morning. Our job: paddle as slowly and quietly as possible toward red alligator eyes illuminated by our head lamps, slip the animal control pole over its head, and haul it into the boat with us. We then had to hold it down and safely (if that’s even possible) slip rubber bands over the jaws.
The next day was spent taking turns mounting the bigger gators so they could be measured from snout to tail and determined if male or female (look up how its done, not fun… sort of like checking an alligator’s prostate!). They were then tagged and released once the data was collected.
Before releasing, game officers had an ingenious way of removing the rubber bands from the alligators’ mouths. A rope was tied around the bands and the gator was placed on the bank. As the officer backed away, and the gator (in theory) backed into the water… pop! The bands were off its mouth. In only one instance did a gator not play along and actually came up out of the water towards us wide-eyed undergrads!
The other day I was putting together a slideshow for a presentation to a local neighborhood association about the animal control ordinances in our city. No problem! I have thousands of dog and cat images in my portfolio. But when I came to the “pooper scooper” law, I came up short! No photos of dogs or cats doing their business.
Often being house trained, the first thing many of the dogs do when taken out of the animal shelter for their adoption photos is use the bathroom. I normally turn away my lens, hold my nose and wait. After all, why would you photograph a subject in such a vulnerable and humiliating situation? And who in their right mind would want to purchase that photo?!
Well, while preparing my presentation on the “pooper scooper” law, I realized there might be a need. There just might be someone out there needing a dog-doing-his-business photo. I uploaded to Dreamstime and the screeners didn’t turn up their noses at it… although they might have plugged them!
Need stock photos for your website or publication? Please don’t steal or pirate images from this site. Purchase from my gallery on dreamstime.com. All stock sale proceeds go to maintain the shelter’s photography equipment and pay for the adoption website, www.waltonpets.net. Thanks!
Wednesday, 10:26 AM – Into the kitty studio! It is raining outside, and most of the shelter dogs are caught up on photos anyway, so “Bailey” got behind the bright lights for her Hollywood debut! Okay, perhaps that is a bit dramatic. But she is a gorgeous cat and deserving of a home.
“Bailey” was photographed for the Walton County Animal Control Shelter in Monroe, Georgia on February 28, 2018 and put on the shelter’s website www.waltonpets.net for adoption or rescue.
Tuesday, 2:10 PM. Recently, the manager of a local mobile home park began setting traps and brought cat after cat into the Walton County Animal Control shelter in Monroe, GA. Some of the cats were quite friendly and got homes fairly quickly. Others, like “Oliver”, being outdoor tom cats needed a little more time to come around.
I had set up the nice blue photo backdrop in the shelter. But still being a little unused to the indoors, “Oliver” played a bit of hide-and-seek in the sink during his photo session! The backdrop and lights weren’t even used! Hey, you gotta work with what you’ve got!
“Oliver” was trapped by a citizen brought in to the Walton County Animal Control shelter on February 21, 2018. His photo session was February 27, 2018 and he was displayed for adoption or rescue on the shelter’s website, www.waltonpets.net. He was rescued on March 2, 2018 by Pound Puppies N Kittens Rescue. His rescue was made possible with a pledged donation to the rescue from Catherine and Jim!
Tuesday, 1:49 PM - Just a short stroll up by the pond behind the animal shelter. I used my iPhone to play a Song Sparrow call. And sure enough, a Song Sparrow popped up out of the tall grass! Over in the pond, the American Coot that showed up at the beginning of the month is still here fishing.
Walton County, Georgia
Monday, 1:24 PM - What a good boy! So handsome and so loving too! And sat for the camera!
“Ollie” was turned in stray to the Walton County Animal Control shelter in Monroe, Georgia on February 22, 2018. This good looking boy had a red collar, but no tag or microchip to find his owner. (Oh, the heartaches that could be saved by a small, cheap piece of engraved metal attached to a collar!).
Maybe I was stretching things, but to me there looked to be some Pointer somewhere back in his blood line. I love the pointers, Weimaraners, Vizslas, etc. So perhaps that was the source of my affinity for Ollie. But more likely it was his easy going attitude with people and other dogs. He just put off that happy presence that made you want to smile. The way his entire butt got in on the tail wagging was probably another factor!
Having sat through the weekend without any owner coming forward, it was Ollie’s turn for an outdoor photography session. Boy did he make it easy. Just a few short minutes turned out several usable shots. It is so much easier with cooperative subjects!
Ollie was photographed for the Walton County Animal Control shelter on February 26, 2018 and put on the adoption website, www.waltonpets.net. He was adopted the very next day! Thanks Kayla for opening your heart and home!