I had previously read her newer book, Street Dogs, in preparation for a project I intended to do. The project never came to fruition because the class that I was going to do the project for didn’t work out. I was pregnant my last year of college, when I had intended to take the Documentary Photography class. The class was only offered during Fall semester and I was due two weeks into it. After a long, sad talk with the professor we decided that it would be impossible for me to take the class. I managed to finish college during Summer semester, two weeks before my due date.
After reading Street Dogs, I knew that this book would not be full of fluffy puppies, happy endings and endless Milkbones. Following the same documentary style that she used to photograph the dogs living on the streets of Mexico & Puerto Rico she photographed the dogs who were living at shelters throughout the United States.
In Shelter Dogs, each dog has a story and a portrait that stares deep into your soul. In the back of the book is a listing of all the dogs featured and their final outcome. It is very hard to read that they were euthanized.
I have such a soft spot in my heart for animals. I am deathly allergic to cats but would not hesitate to try and help one who needed me. I will never be keeping a cat in my home but I have helped quite a few strays find their way back to their home or to a new home.
As much as I would love to volunteer my time at a shelter I don’t think I could emotionally do it. I am actually glad that the project did not work out because the shelter I was to be placed with was a kill shelter. It was a local humane society that found homes for as many animals as they could, placed them in foster homes, worked with rescues…etc. but they could not always prevent an animal being euthanized. I have personally had to take a few pets to the vet to be euthanized for health reasons so I understand that it is not always feasible to keep a very old animal or an animal who is in poor health at a shelter for very long. I just hate to hear of animals being euthanized due to lack of space, funds or adoptability of the breed.
The area that I grew up in had an animal shelter that was a non-profit that received some funding from the county. The county could not afford to maintain its own animal shelter so they partnered with the non-profit. I frequently made trips to their shelter to drop off donations from work. My boss was on the board there and together we set up a little spot in our reception area to distribute the shelter’s wish list and had a collection box for the goods. At least once a month I would drive to the shelter and drop off our collected donations.
I began to notice a trend in the breeds of animals that the shelter regularly had. They had an entire room devoted to Pit Bull breeds and Pit mixes. There was a huge problem at the time (a few years back) with people in the area breeding Pits as a “status symbol.” I don’t know if they were trying to look tough or what but they did not understand that they are large, powerful animals and that they require training, attention and positive reinforcement. A lot of these dogs ended up at the shelter for things that were not 100% their fault because they had not been properly trained.
They also had a large area for Beagles. Beagles make excellent hunting dogs but not every Beagle is destined to hunt. People were breeding dogs for hunting without regard for the pups who did not show good hunting skills but would be excellent companions.
It broke my heart to see all of these perfectly good, young animals facing the possibility of death because their human guardians were not responsible. This Christmas please consider giving to your local animal shelter or rescue group and making a difference in the lives of animals. Christmas time is notorious for the giving of animals as a gift. Many of those animals will end up at a shelter. If you are considering an animal as a gift, think long and hard, weighing the costs, lifespan and your current (and future) living arrangment before making the decision. If an animal is in your future please don’t shop, adopt!