Magic In a Photograph
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Finding a connection of love, companionship, and a little magic
On the cover:
Lori Fusaro: Dogs
Photographers Lori Fusaro: "I am an animal lover. Obviously. I get that from my grandfather. And my dad. I grew up in a family where animals were always a part of our lives. Members of the family. Most of my childhood was spent with animals of all kinds. Horses, hamsters, dogs and cats. My animals bring me such joy. " (Link) ©2017 Lori Fusaro
Saving Lives through Photography
--Antoine de Saint-Exupery, author of Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince) (1900-1944)
In the rescue community, one photograph can save a life, where professional photographers have been devoting their time and expertise to help shelter and rescue animals find their forever families. The photographs help companion animals find his or her forever home, by generating additional exposure, and highlighting his or her unique personality, allowing people to look with their hearts.
Inspiration and Everlasting Connections
It is because of his affection for rescue dogs in which to Phoenix, Arizona-based photographer, John Calman, has devoted his time in photographing rescue dogs, in hopes of helping them find their forever families. In addition to being a photographer, Calman is an animal lover, where he spent his career helping people with his skills and knowledge, continuing to help in his retirement, as he now has the time to also help animals, “who, through no fault of their own, find themselves in need of a loving family and a forever home.” Calman also feels that we have a responsibility to give back to our community, where “Photography is just one of the ways I can help them.”
To Calman, a professional photograph can be the first step in potential adopters finding the dog they are seeking. The photo of the rescue animal “is the first impression adopters have of the animal,” often becoming interested in a particular rescue through the photographs they see on the rescue’s website and social media. The photograph can also highlight that dog’s personality, as potential adopters can get an idea if the particular dog will be the right fit into their family and lifestyle.
Calman always had a camera with him, when he was working with rescues (by transporting dogs, taking them to events, fostering, training, and spending time with them), and began taking photos as he was interacting with the dogs, evolving into photographing the dogs to help them find their forever homes. Calman’s goal for working with any rescue is to help the dogs become more adoptable; although beautiful photographs are a key element, Calman also works with the dogs on their manners and other skills (leash manners, basic commands, meeting new people politely, interacting with other dogs) which will improve their chances of being adopted. Most of the work Calman does is with dogs who have been waiting in boarding, visiting the boarding facility five to six times a week, two or more hours per day, depending on the number of dogs Calman will be working with. One rescue Calman works with is the Amazing Aussies Lethal White Rescue of Arizona (devoted to rescuing Lethal White, or double-merle, Australian Shepherds, matching the dogs with their perfect forever families).
Calman began working with the Amazing Aussies Lethal White Rescue of Arizona, or Amazing Aussies, in 2014, when he was volunteering with the Arizona Saint Bernard Rescue, working with their Saint Bernards who were in boarding, awaiting adoption or a foster home; it was then Calman noticed Draco, who was blind, rescued by Amazing Aussies. Calman contacted Amazing Aussies in hopes of working with Draco (the first special needs dog Calman worked with). “Draco was my introduction to Amazing Aussies and to working with dogs with special needs.” Draco had been living at the boarding facility for a long time, and not getting much attention. Calman recognized Draco’s potential, and started working with him, to keep Draco socialized with people, in hopes of Draco being adopted.
Calman enjoys working with special needs dogs because in working with them, he can help them stand out to potential adopters (as special needs dogs are likely to face challenges in getting adopted). Working with special needs dogs has been extremely rewarding to Calman, as the experience has taught him in how they learn, an additional skill to his rescue work. Calman has tremendous respect for the Amazing Aussies family, who are “so dedicated to the dogs and the mission of the rescue organization.” It is the combination of the dedicated people and the special dogs which was why Calman joined the Amazing Aussies family.
Calman’s favorite photograph he has taken of Draco is of Draco, sitting on the lush green grass; the sky is clear blue, as Draco is featured by his white coat, contrasted by the dark markings on one side of his face. What is most striking: Draco’s lovely smile.
In working with Draco and Amazing Aussies, Calman has “come to love working with dogs that have special needs. They are special in many ways, not just because of any [disability] they may have.” Calman believes “these dogs have a lot to teach us about facing life’s challenges. Their will to live and to make the most of whatever assets they have is an inspiration to me.” Calman introduced Draco to his forever family, as well as helping Draco transition into his new life; Calman credits Draco’s family, for their patience in helping him fit into their family, which included another dog and cats. Calman has the opportunity to visit with Draco and his family every few months, as he and Draco have “never lost that connection.”
Calman, like many of the members of the Amazing Aussies community, has had the fortune to develop that connection with these dogs, a special and deep bond (although the same can be true for a hearing or sighted dog). For Calman, “the friendships I make with these dogs seems to me, to be on a different level—more intense—more connected,” as he affectionately mentions Kaden. Kaden is a special needs dog, both deaf and blind, yet his sense of smell and awareness of human presence, particularly the presence of Calman, was astonishing. “Kaden knew if I was within 100 yards of him, he would go into a happy dance in anticipation of our time together.” Calman treasures his time with Kaden, who has perfect leash manners, enjoying their walks together. Kaden is awaiting his forever family.
Calman also photographs Saint Bernards with the Arizona Saint Bernard Rescue.
One Face to Change a Life
It can be one special soul who becomes the ultimate inspiration for a photographer. As photographer, Lori Fusaro, writes on the blog of HeARTs Speak (a global network of photographers, writers, artists, and animal advocates who provide their time and professional services to animal welfare organizations in their local communities to help homeless animals find their forever homes), one special dog captured her attention and her heart, which would guide her into highlighting senior dogs. In late May of 2012, Fusaro saw the face who would change her life: a face filled with sadness, hopelessness, and despair; the face of a senior dog (age sixteen), named Shady.
Fusaro had been photographing shelter dogs, and soon saw Shady, who was laying on the blanket the shelter gave her. Shady’s eyes were sad, she did not lift her head, she did not move. Fusaro offered Shady a treat, as Shady refused it; it broke Fusaro’s heart, as she also reflected on the difficulty for Shady, and other senior dogs, to be adopted. Fusaro felt compelled to learn more of Shady’s story, and as days passed, Fusaro found Shady increasingly in her thoughts, as there was “a feeling that was so overwhelming,” Fusaro could not ignore. Fusaro would adopt Shady into her family, giving her the name, Sunny. “My intent was to give her a warm bed, some delicious treats and lots of love, and then to put her to sleep with me by her side.” Sunny was also sick, where Fusaro “couldn’t bear the thought of her dying alone in the shelter or being in pain.”
Fusaro would continue her work with the shelters, as senior animals would have a special place in Fusaro’s heart—because of Sunny. Sunny would inspire Fusaro to team with journalist and editor, Laura T. Coffey, to create a book, My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts, which shares success stories and how life-changing it is for adopters of senior dogs. The book illustrates how special senior dogs are, with the goal of giving “these old souls a voice and dignity in their golden years, and maybe even change the perception of seniors… help[ing] animals like Sunny live the last months of their life surrounded by love.” Fusaro credits Sunny in allowing her to open her heart to a dog that was close to the end of her life, and the ultimate heartbreak of losing her. Sunny has shown Fusaro that “love doesn’t keep track of years; that every day is precious,” as the heartbreak of loss is incomparable to the joy in the moments spent with a senior dog. As HeARTs Speak observes, like fine wine and artisan cheese, senior dogs get better with time, where they illustrate that love and friendship are a fine art, “something you only get better at with time.”
HeARTs Speak also featured six senior dogs who are now living with their forever families, with their lives filled with love, with no intention of slowing down: [More]
Perhaps it was serendipity for photographer, Fred Levy, in his journey to highlight dark coated dogs, in his book, The Black Dogs Project: Extraordinary Black Dogs and Why We Can’t Forget Them, which features stunning images of black coated dogs photographed on a black background; “sometimes it is the story, or the interaction with the dog.” Levy was inspired to create a series of photographs featuring black dogs through a conversation about black dogs having a more difficult time in getting adopted. As Levy accounts, he was at the dog park he frequently accompanies his dog to, and had a conversation with a lady, who told him black dogs had a harder time getting adopted in shelters. Levy had never heard of this tendency, and did some research, discovering the phenomenon, “Black Dog Syndrome:” black dogs entering the shelter system are the last to find homes, and usually first to be euthanized, making them an underdog of rescue dogs.
Conjectures of why this syndrome occur range from human nature to the shelter itself. Many times, films and television shows use black-coated dogs to depict mean, aggressive dogs, creating a negative stigma; this stigma and fear can translate into people’s adoption decisions. When people enter the shelter to look for their new family member, there is also an inherent favoring of lighter colored dogs; our eyes are drawn to brighter objects, rather than the duller darker colors. Many people are drawn to lighter coated dogs, perhaps with distinctive markings, without noticing the darker coated dog next door. In association, the shelters may have poor lighting, where the kennels can be dark with shadows; if the black coated dog is standing in the back of the kennel, potential adopters may not even see the dog. In addition, many shelters upload photographs onto their website in hopes of interesting potential adopters; it can be more difficult to get a good photograph of a black dog, as their features may not show up as well. However, Levy has demonstrated that gorgeous photographs highlighting black dogs can be accomplished, capturing hearts, as the dogs who did not have a home at the time of the photo shoot, are now living with their forever families.
At the time of the conversation at the dog park, Levy was contemplating on his next photography project, something challenging, and done in his studio with the right lighting and controlled environment. Photographing black dogs would be the perfect project to embark on: the challenge of highlighting dark coated dogs against a black back drop. It was also important for Levy to photograph black dogs because he knew they had a hard time getting adopted, where one major factor is in the poor photography, which did not highlight the dogs. As many rescues and shelters have limited funds, they would not have the funds to hire a professional photographer. Levy hoped beautiful photographs of black dogs would raise awareness about the predicament black dogs face in the shelter system, and perhaps, finding families for these dogs.
In the book, the parents of the dogs have contributed their stories, accounting how their dog came into their lives and what is has meant to them to have these dogs as a part of their lives, their family. Levy loved the entire project from beginning to end, as he had a great time photographing all the dogs, recalling Beau, a Lab-mix, who stood out. Levy affectionately describes, Beau is completely blind, as he had cataracts, where his eyes “looked like large pearls.” At the time, Beau was living from one foster home to another. Levy was impressed with Beau’s attitude: despite his uncertainty, going from one home to another, Beau was still happy and wanted to play, demonstrating his resilience and positivity, “not bogged down with a difficult situation,” a situation which would be difficult for many humans. Levy had the opportunity to photograph Beau a second time, after he found his forever home. To Levy, Beau will always remain an amazing dog.
Levy is happy to report that all of the dogs featured in the book, now have forever families! In addition to helping find homes for the dogs featured in the book, Levy has helped find homes for the dogs he has worked with, outside the project, including Poppy and Tao, rescued by Big Fluffy Dogs, who contacted Levy to photograph the dogs who were still searching for their forever homes. As Levy accounts on his Canine Noir blog, two dogs who were adopted, together, were Poppy who has three legs, and Tao, who both belonged to a hoarder. Poppy and Tao were compared to bookends: you cannot have one without the other, as just like book ends, Poppy and Tao kept each other up. Poppy had gotten hit by a car, resulting in a severely damaged leg; the hoarder did not take her to the vet; Tao was there for her, and when Poppy’s leg had to be amputated. Poppy and Tao are the best of friends, complimenting one another: Tao was born without a tail, but Poppy does have a tail. “Combined, they have seven legs, one tail, and two big smiles,” and now live together as a complete family, getting belly rubs and baby carrots for treats.
Levy has tremendous respect for the people who work and volunteer at animal shelters and rescues, devoted to finding homeless dogs their forever families, understanding how sad and frustrating the process can be. Levy, “impressed with what shelters do and respect their process,” volunteers his expertise in helping animals find their homes. Levy had done training at Shultz’s Guest House in Dedham to help them take better photographs of their adoptable residents. Levy created an event at the shelter and invited staff from other local shelters to attend the training, where he showed the staff how to take better photographs. To Levy, “It’s a nice feeling to be on the positive end of the [adoption] process.”
To Levy, the goal of the Black Dogs Project isn’t necessarily for people to go to their shelters and adopt black dogs because they need homes; rather, the goal is to highlight these dogs, their personalities, as this should be the foremost factor to consider when adopting. Levy also hopes for first time adopters to do their research before adopting their new family member, such as the activity level of the breed of dog you are interested in. When you are adopting, you are “choosing a life partner.” Levy hopes that adopters will be successful in “finding that connection.”
The photographs taken by professional photographers illustrate the power of a photograph in saving lives. The power within the photographs is the animals themselves, who shine their personalities, or their magnetic smiles, who otherwise, may not have been noticed and passed by. The power of the photograph is in allowing adopters to look at these shelter and rescue animals with our hearts, developing a connection of love, companionship… and a little magic.
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Louisa Lew, Contributing Writer: Louisa Lew graduated from the University of Washington with a Bachelor’s Degree in the Liberal Arts, double majoring in Political Science and Film. She is currently a Freelance Copy Editor and Writer, living in Seattle with her two dogs. (more...)