Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Take some "PAWS" for the cause

I saw a post the other day on Christiana's blog "US meets UK" that pulled on my heartstrings almost as much as those Sarah Mclaughlin humane society commercials.  It was asking photographers of all walks of life (amateur to pro) if they would consider volunteering to photograph shelter animals.  

What inspired Christiana's post was an adorable picture of a pug up for adoption on  She followed the watermark trail to a photographer by the name of Mary Swift.  Mary is a pet photographer who, since 2004, has been doing pro bono professional photography of shelter animals in an attempt to help them attract potential adoptions.  As you can see below and if you visit her website, her photographs do an amazing job of catching that glimmer in a needy pet's eye!  For her to donate her time this way is such a wonderful idea that I'm sure many of us had never thought of (at least I never had).  Mary also has a blog ( that features photographs and short stories about Baltimore Humane Society animals available for adoption.  For instance...  

(Mary was kind enough to send me this photo of Petey)

This is Petey!  He is currently in a foster home and waiting for a forever home...  look at those sad brown puppy dog eyes and don't tell me you wouldn't want to adopt him!  =)  "Petey is a handsome young American Bulldog mix who lost his home when his owner left for college.  Since October 2009, he has been charming his way into the hearts of the staff and volunteers at the Humane Society… and while he’s an incredibly happy-go-lucky dog whose tail is always wagging, nothing would make him happier than a permanent home with lots of love and attention!  Petey is just over a year old, and is very active.  Does anyone out there need a hiking buddy?  If so, this is your guy.  He’s already housebroken, he walks well on a leash, and he’s been going through some obedience training at the shelter, learning lots of new commands.  Please visit Petey at the BHS and see for yourself what a great dog he is! "
~ An excerpt quoted from Mary's blog

For more about Mary's adventures and the adoptable pets she photographs please visit her site ( or that of the Baltimore Humane Society (

Now I'm sure you are asking why would these shelters need pro photos...  Having volunteered at the Butler County Humane Society (BCHS) for a couple years, you tend to get more animals in than you have room for.  And to ensure that you stay a no kill shelter, you have to market your prospective pets.  You take them out to local events, you have adoption days at local pet stores, you hold your own charity fundraising events to raise money support them during their stay.  But at the end of the day, you still end up with more animals than the shelter has room or funds to care for long term.  To make matters worse, if you aren't a highly active shelter in the community, your adoptions into forever homes depend on the "cute factor".  These animals are often crudely photographed and end up looking more undesirable than they would be in real life.  Check out a comparison photo that Christiana put in her post of a pup who just looks rather unhappy.  =(  And as the cuteness factor goes...  The cuter the animal, the faster they adopt!  It's sad as there are plenty of sweet and loving animals out there but if they weren't looking cute on the website, they won't be considered or even clicked on.

After reading Christiana's post and then Mary's blog, I was reminded why I loved volunteering at the shelter and how when my life starts to settle down, I will consider to do so again.  Maybe by offering my photographic eye for free pet photos...  as I have a little nack for that.

Our Ft. Riley rescued critters (Alice and Scout)

Boos my pillow thief caught in action and Roscoe patiently waiting for a treat

Or even doing as I had before by volunteering my time helping local shelters with their fundraising efforts.  For instance, I love the pawcasso event that the BCHS did in 2004.  It combined my love of animals and art as it involved having the dogs paint.  Yes, dogs and paint minus the brushes.  I wish I got photos of the painting sessions.  They put kid safe paint on a drop cloth and got the dogs to walk through the paint then onto a clean sheet of paper.  By doing this you got a paw print art work from each shelter dog at the time.  One dog named bettie boop actually sat in the paint and did a butt print.  ;)  The most recent Pawcasso was held in November 2009.

Sadly I was only able to find this photo of the show from the caterer Jody (who might I say makes amazing spreads from the additional photos she posted...)

I hope this post and my inspiration via Christiana via Mary may inspire other photographers out there to throw a little of your talent towards a good cause.  Even if you don't think you are the most amazing photographer, a needy shelter will take whatever help you can give.  =)  Plus if anyone out there is looking for a good pup and lives in the Baltimore area...  please go check out Petey!  He's so cute that if we had a bigger house, we'd drive from the Burgh to Baltimore for him.  ;)


Christiana said...

Thanks so much for posting this forward! I'm glad it inspired you too :) I've been trying to figure out my camera further in the hope SI can help directly.

Meh said...

You're welcome! It's a great idea and I'm so glad that I saw your post about it. Once all the dust settles from my wedding and grad school, I'm going to attempt to do it too.

Several months down the road or even a year from now when we all start lending our photographic eye to shelters, we ought to start a flickr group (if one doesn't already exist) for such a cause. =)

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