Photographing Shelter Dogs

Last night was my 3rd night photographing shelter dogs. I was a bit nervous about committing myself to a shoot every other week. When I look back at that now it’s ridiculous. I could do it almost every day. (I say almost because it’s easy to visit with them and photograph them and hug them, but it’s so, so hard to leave them.)

All the dogs are pretty nuts when they come in for a shoot. They’re excited, they’re nervous (none so far have been afraid of the light), and they’re happy, all at once. I always get kisses. I often get a dog in my lap and I occasionally get pee’d on. It’s all great, sitting on the floor, hugging them and talking with them. But I have to make it quick because they don’t know what’s going on.

I start each night, on the night of the shoot, visiting with all the dogs and cats at the shelter. I used to think the cats were much more stoic about their fate in the shelter, but more than a few of them have broken my heart in the past 6 weeks.

But before we do the head shots for the rescue (Save Our Strays), I try to get a wide shot of everyone. I like to show the context of what they’re going through, what their current circumstances are. I know people want to see pretty pictures of dogs smiling. I know that those photos are the ones that help dogs get rescued. But I think it’s important for us to be really sober about what we’re doing to animals. They’re there not through any fault of their own; not through any fault of shelter staff. They’re there because of us. Our fault. Our negligence, our lack of empathy and love, our irresponsibility.

Our problem. Ours to fix.

To rephrase a very popular sentiment, This IS my circus. These ARE my monkeys.

Love your beasties (and if you can make room any more, these darlings are at the Kalamazoo Shelter.

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