This book is a visual celebration of shelter dogs from three different facilities in Palm Beach County, Florida. There is always more that can be done for the protection and well-being of our domestic animals at the hands of humans. Why not give them a voice – if only through portraits – and let them share their stories…
When I first began this project in early July 2013, I thought it would be a very emotional experience to photograph shelter dogs. After all, they usually don’t have a great story leading up to their home at a shelter. I cried the first few times I entered the shelters, thinking how hard it was going to be to look at all the dogs behind bars who were crying for attention. But then after I started interacting with them, it became much easier. They really just wanted attention, love and a safe environment. And when we released them to be in front of the camera, most of them just came alive, seemingly to have forgotten any troubling past and “lived in the moment,” with their handler and I, as we now know dogs do.
I look forward and relish the time that I spend with “my” dogs. Not only do I, and the dogs, benefit from the interaction, but it turns out that the shelter facilities do, too. I volunteer my time and offer any and all photographs I have taken at each shelter to do with what they want. By using the images as an advertisement of dogs up for adoption, my contacts have told me that people see their photos on the shelter websites and purposefully come in to meet the dogs in person! If this is the only thing I can accomplish, then that alone signifies I’m making a difference in their lives.
As is said, “the eyes are the windows to your soul,” and because of this, my primary focus is their eyes. For you interested photographers, I did not use a flash at all, since that can be disconcerting, abrupt and scary. I used a large circular bounce card which reflects ambient light in a non-intrusive way. And several dogs were afraid to look into the lens—to them it was a big black thing blocking my eyes—yet some were very curious when hearing the shutter click. Also, before I would even start, I laid my camera down in the grass along with my bounce card, and invited them to sniff and get comfortable knowing the camera was not a threat. One dog even found it necessary to “mark” my camera! (thank you very much.)
The dogs in this book are not photographically retouched, I wanted to show you who they really are so you can see their authentic selves. Some have hair loss, skin damage, scars, crooked faces or signs of cruel treatment. But it’s not about offering you a perfect dog, it’s about showing you who they are, as flawed as they might seem. Looking into each set of eyes, you can see the perfection in every dog’s soul. All the dogs I worked with were sweet, loving and surprisingly very gentle.
On each facing page, I have included as much information as was available about each dog, their traits, breed, age, sex, what shelter they’re at, as well as how they found themselves in this predicament.
As of the printing of this book, some may have been adopted, which is wonderful. However many will still be available looking for a “furever” home. If you find yourself wanting more information about a particular dog, I have included each shelter’s contact information and website at the end of this book. And from that, if you find your furever fur baby, then I’ve accomplished even more than what I set out to do.
Thank you for picking this book up and getting to know the beautiful dogs within these pages.