On Tuesday, as I do approximately every other week, I was at Kitsap Humane Society photographing adoptable dogs. I am in good company in this endeavor – many, many pet photographers and other volunteers do this as a way to give back, and certainly there are plenty of organizations, breed rescues, etc that could use the help – there is so much to do with feeding, exercising, training, making arrangements, paperwork, fund raising, cleaning up, etc. It can be tricky to photograph shelter pets, as they are in unfamiliar surroundings and can be confused or come from abusive or neglectful situations. I feel strongly that quality images are vital in this social media age to helping these homeless pets get to the people that are perfect for them, and who may not even realize they need that four-foot as much as he or she needs them. Just yesterday as I was addressing Christmas cards (oh yeah, I AM that far behind) I found the newspaper clippings from (gulp) 1997 that attest to the power of a photograph – the crazy old Beagle that stole my heart and “lived out his twilight years” – nearly 9 of them – with us. I have always been overly sensitive, and that was the one time I physically visited the Cowlitz County shelter, other than to drop off towels and blankets and food. I was only able to go specifically for that particular dog, not to pick one from among many, or even to walk them. I hear this from a lot of people, that it is too sad, they just can’t stand to see all the need. For sure that is true, although I find it helps me to have a specific mission, and I cannot afford another pet at this time, and also my husband would leave me if I brought home another critter. All of my adult life I have supported animal rescue and re-homing – when we each had secure, full time jobs with benefits and no 2 footed children I wrote a check every month to the local humane society, and regularly to the national organization and specific rescues, like Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, ASPCA, etc. Now that financial resources are slim, I am honored to be able to help by taking and sharing photographs, and contribute $$ or supplies whenever I can. My kid-free time is limited (when both my kiddos are in school full time I plan to go more frequently), so while a few hours every few weeks at the shelter isn’t much, it is time away from my paid work and family, there is travel time, editing time, gas and expensive equipment that has a lifespan and must be maintained.
Your point, you might ask? Well this Tuesday I lost it and was just overwhelmed – not only because I wanted to bring each and every one of those sweet babies home (you, too, Mr. I-can-jump-to-the-top-of-my-kennel), or how patiently they waited just to go outside and have some human contact, or how they looked right inside me (Sir Chance you are a beautiful soul) but just by how many people give so unselfishly – TIME walking dogs and cleaning kennels every day and every week, posting to Petfinder, Craigslist and Facebook; MONEY donated at the auction, pictures with Santa and throughout the year, FOOD dropped off, LOVE with every adoption – nearly 4000 this year just at KHS – and PRAYER. And then, multiply that by thousands of animal rescue organizations throughout the country, then multiply THAT by people helping other people – dropping everything to fly to disaster-affected areas and clean up, rebuild and help out, people in the trenches with the homeless, the mentally ill, the elderly, foster children, visiting the sick and addicted, supporting soldiers returning from overseas – it goes on and on. My 7 year old was recently invited to a birthday party where the invitation requested donations to KHS instead of gifts! I am simultaneously amazed by the amount of need AND the amount of giving. I happened to lose it in front of two ladies who work at the shelter every day, and I felt like a huge wimp for doing so, but they were so kind, even though the emotional cost to me pales in comparison to what they must experience. Whatever I can do has been graciously accepted and it is fantastic to see so many dogs and cats being fed, sheltered and loved, then going to loving, permanent homes, where they are able to rebound from their neglect or abandonment so quickly. If you haven’t already done so, find and embrace your passion, give back in a way that is meaningful to you. If you already are, know you are appreciated and will get back many times over what you put in.
Did I cry all the way home? You bet I did. Will I be going back? Wild horses (which are available, BTW!) couldn’t keep me away.