#volunteerssavingpets

Blessings of Love for Your Home

Yesterday, I put in a few hours doing my volunteer photography at the (independent, non-profit) Humane Society of Utah, so don’t be surprised today’s post features cats. I photographed 27 cats; not even half of the total number now available for adoption. If you’re looking for a cat (dog, rabbit, or …) please choose the adoption option and visit your local shelter.

What do you think of the photos? Do they capture anything you would consider reflective of the animal’s character? It is truly important to me that I do this work well.

Here’s a small sampling of the love waiting to bless your home.

Dancer, Kennel 137, Animal ID A054549

Dash, Kennel 108, Animal ID A053418

Fluffers, Kennel 104, Animal ID A054088

Kitty We, Kennel 113, Animal ID A054021

Little Mama, Kennel 104, Animal ID A054087

Londyn, Kennel 108, Animal ID A053419

Marco, Kennel 110, Animal ID A054395

Marley, Kennel 111, Animal ID A053161

Nermal, Kennel 100, Animal ID A054212

Paul, Kennel 132, Animal ID A053199

Shadow, Kennel 115, Animal ID A054156

Zoe, Kennel 139, Animal ID A053840

Egypt, Kennel 107, Animal ID A054143

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It’s Probably Not What You Think Of

I usually try to keep my posts brief. Today I failed. 😛

Last November, I began volunteering at the Humane Society of Utah (HSU) as a photographer. You may or may not know that it has been repeatedly shown that the increase of adoption rates for animals with good, flattering photos is very significant. Out of a handful of photographers that volunteer, I’m the only one that isn’t allergic to cats, so guess where my efforts are focused? 🙂

I have learned a great deal since I started volunteering. Being an independent community-based and funded non-profit organization, HSU has a lot of challenges. Its name may lead you to assume an affiliation with the Humane Society of the United States, but no such affiliation exists. HSU survives on community donations, a skeleton staff and volunteer assistance. A recent expansion and construction project is giving the facility some badly needed space, while the animals will enjoy some major housing upgrades.

I strongly believe that every shelter should be a no-kill shelter. While progress is being made in this direction, this dream has a long way to go before becoming a reality. HSU has not euthanized an adoptable dog in over 3 years. Unfortunately, this is not the case with the cats. Despite mobile adoption programs, partnerships with retail stores to host staffed displays of animals available for adoption and on-going community outreach efforts, the facility simply cannot house forever the unsettling number of cats it receives. Alexandra, a beautiful solid black female with an attitude, has been at the shelter since I started volunteering. After more than 6 months, she has no known prospects of finding a forever home.

Unfortunately, when people think of an animal shelter, too often they get an image in their mind of a pet death camp. This distortion of the truth is founded on some very real horrors, but the distortion comes when we assume those horrors occur in every shelter facility. Because of this errant perception, I decided to use my camera to bring to mind the good things about a reputable, caring shelter. With one obvious exception, the photographs I took were unstaged and simply captured what was happening around me.

I obtained permission to photograph in the HSU clinic, which provides low-cost medical care and spay and neuter services. I was so very impressed with the compassion shown to the animals receiving care. The caregivers here really are angels – while I love animals, I don’t have the emotional strength to endure what these folks must endure every day. To do what they do with the love and care with which they do is to me an awesome, admirable and honorable thing.

Nikon D300, ISO 320, f/6.3 at 1/1000 sec, 22 mm

The HSU clinic provides expert care, ranging from vaccinations and spay and neuter procedures to life-saving surgeries.

Nikon D300, ISO 320, f/11 at 1/60 sec, 52 mm

Unaware of being photographed, this caregiver’s interaction with a sick cat truly yanked at my heart strings. Notice the expressions on both of their faces: there was communication of a higher level happening here.

Nikon D300, ISO 320, f/6.3 at 1/1000 sec, 22 mm

HSU services go far beyond just housing adoptable pets. These volunteers were really good sports about helping to
communicate that visually.

Nikon D300, ISO 320, f/4.0 at 1/2000 sec, 32 mm

While the above shot was not staged, this beautiful canine clinic patient insisted on taking a moment out from her walk to pose and check out the guy with the camera.

Nikon D300, ISO 400, f/13 at 1/500 sec, 45 mm

Family members that volunteer together build relationships with the animals and each other.

Nikon D300, ISO 400, f/13 at 1/60 sec, 45 mm

In the end, it’s up to you. If you’re looking for a pet, please choose the adoption option. You’ll probably be quite surprised by the variety of animals and breeds available at your local shelter.

I commend HSU for all it does and for the way it does it. If you live in the area and are interested in volunteering, please contact Jamie Usry, HSU’s volunteer coordinator. Volunteering is on your own terms – do what you can when you can. There is a permanent link to the HSU website located under “Links” on this blog. You can also help through donations of cat, dog and rabbit food, cat litter (the clumping variety only, please), towels, blankets, newspaper, animal-safe toys, and of course cash.

Thank you to Jamie Usry and the HSU staff members and volunteers that made this blog post possible!

P.S.: Live local? Like cats? Like photography and the idea of volunteering your skills? Please contact me!

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Positive Reinforcement!

Today, while taking photos of the cats at the shelter, I got to hear two young women ask to see a specific cat by name that they had seen in the HSU website’s cat listings. It was Pepper, a rather large and friendly 3 1/2 year-old male Tabby I had photographed last weekend. After visiting with him for a while, they were excited to take him home!

For the record, this made me feel all warm and furry inside… It gives me hope that my photos are helping to make a difference finding forever homes for these wonderful cats.

You can see Pepper’s “before” and “after” shots below.

Before: Pepper's "intake" mugshot as originally pictured on his kennel card and on the HSU website

After: While it shows that Pepper wasn't amused by my picture taking efforts, he still ended up looking lots better than he did in his intake photo!

Depending On Community for Survival

Sometimes there are ways to help that may seem too simple or insignificant, but in reality they make a huge difference!

  • That newspaper you read every day and (hopefully) toss in your recycle bin is critical to someone’s comfort, yet you throw it away.
  • Those old, worn towels and blankets you either don’t know what to do with, or tear apart to make rags could instead be helping someone feel safe and protected.

It’s true. In almost every US town or city with a significant population, there are hundreds for whom something as simple and available to most as newspapers, old towels and blankets can equate to comfort, safety and protection. Who are they? They are the scared, confused and often abandoned, ill or injured animals in our not-for-profit community shelters.

Ultimately, they are there because of us. We didn’t spay or neuter and ended up with unwanted kittens or puppies. We got a pet for Christmas, not realizing the full scope of the responsibility we were taking on. We ended up being allergic. We are scared for the animal to be around our newborn baby. The landlord said it had to go. We didn’t realize the expense involved in owning a pet. The list goes on and on. Are you getting it?

Shelters need lots of newspaper to line the small dog kennels and small animal cages and to absorb any mishaps of nature that may occur. A blanket or towel given to a new arrival can give them something to hide in or under, something to curl up with and feel safe. Not to mention the amount of towels needed to keep the animals washed and groomed. And old towels can also be used to clean kennels.

So if you want to help, but can’t afford the time to volunteer or the money to donate, can’t you at least take a few minutes to drop off a few things you thought were trash? Most shelters, if not open when you arrive, would even be happy for you to leave your donation (protected from the weather) by the front door!

Finally, if you are ready to take on the responsibilities that come with owning a pet, the kindest and most wonderful thing you can do for your shelter and its animals is adopt one of the pets in their care. You would probably be amazed at the variety, the breeds, and the array of animal personalities you will find at a shelter!

Choose the Adoption Option!

Start making a difference today!

I welcome your comments!