When You Adopt a Shelter Dog…

So many of us have so many great stories about the animals we’ve adopted and rescued. In volunteering for my local shelter, Kalamazoo County Animal Control Services, I’ve met dozens of amazing creatures who just need and desperately want a chance to be loved. And they all deserve it; every single one of them. The “scary” dogs, like Pitties, fill the shelters across the country. But in my experience and time with them, I’ve found them to be the biggest loves; the most eager to please, wanting the most hugs and giving the most kisses. There have been nights that I’ve left the shelter furious at mankind; other times I’ve left crying. And others, I’ve left vowing to return and save that one dog. (I’m happy to say that every time that’s happened, a rescue has beat me to it.)

I created this series as a way to honor my dogs, rescues all of them. Over the last couple of years I’ve added pieces to this project. Only when I got the help from the amazingly talented graphic designer Travis Haight (of Recipe for Haight), was I able to see the project in front of me take form as it had been in my heart. This project is one more voice adding to the urgency of these animals’ message. Now that we’re getting settled in Southwest Michigan, there are plans in the works for adding more pieces with other dogs; big, small, hairy, scary ūüôā And hopefully some cats as well!

They all have a voice, they’re all telling us something. Something desperate. We just have to be willing to listen.

I hope you enjoy the series, which can be found here.

They’ll be up in my Etsy shop soon, but if you’d like to pre-order a piece, let me know.

Better yet, go visit your local shelter and visit and listen. Take home a new (or old) soul. Because when you adopt a shelter dog (or cat), you change the world. One animal at a time.

Your Pride Becomes His
Your Pride Becomes His

Chalk Dogs Art

I¬†started my Chalk Dogs Art about a year ago; we shot the first one with antlers on August 30. I’ve been so bad at showing these and explaining what they’re about. As I’m cutting back the number of sessions that I’m taking on and spending more time on personal work, I realize that the Chalk Dogs Art is a really important part of what I do, and I need to respect that and talk about it.

I do the chalk art with my dogs to talk about the shelter dog (and cat) situation and how abysmal it is. (If you haven’t seen what I’ve done so far, they’re on Instagram under my account @tasteslikechalk.) ¬†I haven’t yet created a gallery on this site to show all of them off (something I’m working on), but we have a special day coming up in September.

National Pet Memorial Day is September 13. That’s the day we honor our animals, both present and gone (and lord knows I have a lot who are gone, so I’ll be crying a lot that day). Aside from giving your beasties extra love that day, or lighting a candle or visiting a burial spot for beasties gone, why don’t you donate a little bit to the people who are working day in and day out to give every animal a loving home and a place to retain their dignity till they die?

I give a little bit every month to Hope for Paws. Many of you are familiar with Eldad’s and his volunteer’s work. They’ll sit on a curb the whole day to get one animal saved and off the streets for good. Or give to your local shelter. If you don’t like your local shelter (and I hear this a lot from people; they don’t want to support kill shelters); think of it this way, they are probably kill shelters because we keep throwing out our animals. I think there are precious few shelter employees who enjoy putting animals to sleep, so if you’re looking for blame, don’t look their way. /slight rant over

There’s also START. They rescue¬†animals from high capacity and high kill¬†shelter out of the area, to where they’re more likely to find a home. By the way, you can also buy a Winged Dog tee at START, doubling your donating efforts with some money going to START itself and some to Hope for Paws.

Soon I’ll be selling postcards of my Chalk Dogs series, with a big portion of sales going to rescue and the people who do the work that most of us can’t. Here’s the first chalk art I did with T, nearly a year ago. It didn’t have a shelter dog message at the time, but you can believe it will get one when the gallery comes up. (soon!)

Chalk Dogs Art - "Oh, dear."

When You Adopt a Shelter Dog…

I started this chalkboard series with my dog, T, about 2 months ago. It’s been a lot of fun drawing, but also shooting with T. We work closely, and he’s gotten so so good at knowing where his mark is at and how to stay there. He’ll also stay put on his mark while I move around him and, using a treat or my voice, get him to turn his head and look left or right, up or down. Chalk days are good days around here.

One sad thing about Chalk days is Jack. I’ve talked about his modeling/light testing skills before, and how he can’t really sit up for a long time, like I need him to do for the Chalkboard series. I made a special board for him, Old Dog, and that was just for him. It made him super happy to be the center of attention that day (one other thing about Chalk day is the dog who is posing really is the star). I noticed that Jack would be a little down on those days he couldn’t pose. Even though everyone got treats, I was reminded that posing was originally Jack’s job.

So I started shooting with Jack again, at least letting him sit, or usually lay, in front of the board while I took a few photos. They were, for the most part, unusable because he wasn’t on mark, but he loved doing it, and beside the reward of the treat, he just loves working with me and pleasing me. I don’t know how in the world I could have forgotten, even for just a shoot or two, ¬†how much that meant to him.

So. Yesterday’s Chalk Day was “When you adopt a shelter dog, you take him from Zero to Hero in 60 seconds.” Clearly, this was a board that needed everyone. T first, so I could positing and get my focus. Jack and Mouse waiting by the front door while T did his job, and they were super happy to get their treats. But when I said, “Jack’s turn!” he flipped! He jumped up and got near the door and pushed it up and he RAN to the apple boxes. Awww, my baby boy. He missed doing his job for me.

He didn’t have to lay down yesterday; not only did he sit, but he stood! For a long time! He stood there until I said, “Good job!” (his signal for “we’re done”) and he *jumped* off the apple boxes and ran to me. It was the best. In fact, it was so great I brought Mouse out.

Mouse isn’t a fan of the camera. This is huge progress, as she started from “hating the camera.” She’s connected posting with treats, and also, she’s a people pleaser as well. But aren’t all dogs people pleasers? I think so, maybe some just haven’t found the right people yet.

Mouse was great. A little skittish, but a good little poser. And she gave me a great smile.

All three of these dogs, my dogs, felt like zeros when I adopted them. Now, they all feel like Heroes. Over time, they’ve built confidence, and they’ve learned that I love them and they’ve eagerly accepted that love, and they’ve returned it! T has a VIJ (Very important job) in the house; Jack has a job, and even Mouse does. They all feel needed, wanted, and loved. They all have warm beds, snuggles, treats, 2 squares a day, and as many toys as we can fit into the every growing toy box.

Most importantly, they have me to please, which they do every day. They truly are Heroes. All the unwanted dogs you see out there, the ones who are labeled “biters” or “aggressive” or “lost causes.” They all need a job, a person to please. That’s what adopting does for them. It gives them a purpose, a job, and love, and that’s what makes them Heroes.

It’s true. When you adopt a shelter dog, he (or she) goes from Zero to Hero in 60 seconds. And you’ve got a spare minute, don’t you?

Here are my heroes.

Super Hero T.
Super Hero T.
Super Hero Mouse
Super Hero Mouse