Monthly Archives: February 2012

A Life Shattering Experience

On this day last year, I was at a vet’s office while my elderly cat underwent surgery when I got a text message.  “Check Facebook.  Bunny and Brock are missing.” Bunny is the single most special animal I’ve ever fostered.  I almost didn’t let her go, and every day for the last year, I have wished that I hadn’t.  She was worth giving up the rescue for, to me.  She was worth it all. When Bunny arrived  in our care, she was one of the most fearful dogs I’d ever seen.  She was nearly feral.  She was born in a shelter as evidence in a hoarder’s animal cruelty trial, and spent the first eight months of her life without leaving her kennel or seeing daylight, or grass.  She and her siblings were said to be so afraid of grass that they collapsed on it and crawled, dragging their handlers to the sidewalk where they could at least feel the familiarity of concrete.  Volunteers for a border collie rescue had helped to socialize them, driving for hours  each week to arrive at the shelter and work with the 20 dogs that were left out of the original 30 or so (some died in the kennels, including some of the pups that were born there, and Bunny’s mother.)

When we took Bunny in, it was a lot of work, effort and a heck of a learning experience for me.  We went through so much together.  It was just a completely fulfilling experience for me, though, as I really learned about the kind of dogs that I love to help.  I would take in a million Bunnys just to see them blossom the way she did.  She was here for over a year, and she was a huge part of my life.  I was close to keeping her with that “perfect” home came along, and I was able to let her go so I could continue my rescue work.

A year later, that text message came, and my world was shaken, rocked, off its foundation.  We launched into action.  A Facebook page just for the two dogs and their search effort quickly grew to over a hundred people.   Volunteers donated an incredible amount of money to help cover advertising costs, and my husband, best friend and myself spent well over 30 hours the first week searching on foot, searching with dogs, and hanging flyers and posters to try and find the dogs.  I spent every day making a trip out to hang more posters or to search, even if I was alone.  In addition to ads, we contacted media, had the dogs’ story make the front page of the paper locally here and featured in a large spread in a weekly paper that comes out in a large area locally.  We had http://www.findtoto.org send calls out to thousands of neighbors in the area to report the dogs missing.  I took and made phone calls daily as nearly every stray dog sighting in a huge radius was called in to me- with not a single one showing any hope of being the dogs.  While I didn’t know Brock that well, we never narrowed our search for just Bunny.  It’s our hope that if she is alive, so is he.

We never had a confirmed sighting of the dogs.  After a month, our efforts on foot dwindled.  We kept our flyers updated, kept checking Craigslist and other sites, but nothing really seemed to stand out.  It’s like they disappeared.  In fact, some theories came out that perhaps their adopters gave them away (I hope not, and am not accusing them of such,) or perhaps they were stolen, or picked up and moved far away.  I will probably never know.

It’s been a year, and I’ve never stopped thinking about Bunny.  I’ve never stopped missing her.  My heart has not been whole.  I have never regretted one of my mistakes in rescue as much as I regret not keeping her here, with me, where she never would have ended up in this situation.  Some days, the misery I feel over losing her is unbearable.  In terms of closure and the ability to move on, it would have been better to find her lifeless body than never to have found her at all.   I fear I’ll have this pain with me for the rest of my life.

In the past year, it has been more difficult to allow rescued animals to go.  I have a harder time parting with fosters, a harder time trusting adopters, and an emotion of protectiveness that overcomes reason too often.  I can only hope that this will fade, or I  may have to give up my rescue for Bunny after all.

http://www.facebook.com/v/1361715043668

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Filed under Lost, Personal, Pets, Rescue

Puppy power!

I haven’t had the time to prepare the next blog post that I was hoping to write, because things have been pretty busy here processing applications and working on rescue business.  Another hindrance is the temporary addition of a puppy here while we help her prepare for her (hopeful) new home.  Bella is learning sit, down, a recall, and we’re working on housebreaking, by which I mean we’re mostly working on just making sure she doesn’t pee in the house- this is much more difficult than it seems, as she tends to just squat where she stands and piddle.  She always gets rewarded for pottying outside; she hasn’t pottied once without my being present, and I’m hoping it helps her realize that’s where she needs to go but until she starts to understand, I’m basically spending all my time following her around or taking her outside.  This of course means I’m not spending as much time at the computer.  Ah, well.  In the absence of a meaningful post, here are some cute Bella photos to tide you over!

Taken yesterday:Image

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Today:Image
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Pet Adoption Tips: Good photography places pets.

With exceptional resources like www.petfinder.com,  www.adoptapet.com, and www.rescuegroups.org, it is easier than ever for people to see and choose adoptable pets.  For potential adopters who get overwhelmed with emotion when walking through shelters, or who are sensitive to the sounds or smells of crowded facilities, these resources prevent the need to step foot in a shelter until a potential match is found.  Websites such as these have made it possible for people to “visit” many shelters at once, scanning hundreds of animals in just a few clicks, without having to drive from place to place.  With the help of the internet, foster-based rescue groups have emerged as an incredible force in  animal adoptions, all made possible because of their ability to present their animals on the web for people to see. This media outlet- what I like to call “virtual shelters”- comes with a couple limitations.  The sheer number of animals available to choose from when searching online can be such that it is easy for pets to get overlooked and so first impressions are a must, and in that vein, a picture really does say a thousand words.  When scanning pages on Petfinder, for example, you see a pretty simple list without a lot of personal detail, and you must click to read more detailed biographies.  What makes the difference?  Tiny thumbnails.

Here you have one dog straining on the leash, disengaged, one dog that has no photo at all, two photos that don't stand out really well in thumbnails and have typical shelter backgrounds (leash, half-bodied volunteers, Helen looks a little nervous...) but Tasha's photo stands out AND she looks happy.

Here are some tips that will help with your pet photography in general but especially when concerning adoptable pets.  You do not have to be a great photographer to take great pet adoption photos!  These tips are for anyone at any skill level or with any camera.

  1. Get up close and personal.  Especially when petfinder thumbnails are concerned, you need to fill up the space with a nice shot that will draw someone in.  Engaging the viewers with a soulful glance can make a huge difference.
  2. Get down on their level. Typical top-down photography is a staple among shelter volunteers, but this can really create a disconnect.  Top-down angles are generally unflattering, and without a zoom (or an edited crop) they create distance between the viewer and the animal.
  3. Watch your lighting. Natural lighting is always best.  Try outside on an overcast day for best results, or in a well-lit area.  Good light will eliminate blurry photos and give you a great opportunity for action shots. Sunshine is not always your friend, although sunny days can bring out the shine and features of black animals, especially.  Be sure, though, to use an indirect angle.  Do not put the sun behind the animal you’re photographing, as you may end up with a pet silhouette in front of a glaring bright spot.  Be careful when using a flash so that you do not end up with unflattering “laser eye” effects, which creates another disconnect.  A direct flash can also wash out features or create distracting shadows.  That’s not to say that there aren’t great opportunities for wonderful flash photography, especially when you are going for action shots or the dog is backlit.
  4. Catch the side of the pet that you want to promote.  Candid shots of animals having fun are sometimes the best, most engaging photos.  Don’t show dogs straining on a leash, barking, jumping up, or cats hunkered down in a litterbox or hiding in the corner.  Playing with toys, showing off tricks, running and having fun, all these things are great ways to show off what this pet has to offer.  It may take some time to get an animal to warm up and come out of its shell, but it’s good for them to have that interaction and it’s worth the time in order to help them present better in their photos.  Happy expressions will make people happy but sad, depressing photos of animals that look like they want to shrink into nonexistence will not win anyone but the saddest saps (yours truly!) over.
  5. Editing can be your friend, just don’t overdo it.  A photo doesn’t have to be perfect right off the camera in order to make a great web shot.  A few minutes spent adjusting color and exposure, cropping, editing out intrusive background distractions, etc, can make a huge difference.  If you have Photoshop or a similar program and some extra time, try removing leashes, clutter, even people if possible so that your photo looks more natural.   However, not every problem can be easily fixed and some things are just best left the way they are.  I have seen an increasing trend lately where enterprising photographers use something like Microsoft Paint or other basic editors to basically paint black irises over the “laser eyes.”  This doesn’t look so bad at thumbnail level, but it becomes pretty obvious when the photos are enlarged and can give a creepy look to the photo.

    Borrowed this pic from a shelter on Facebook

  6. Look behind/around the pet.  Staging photos doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but it does pay to practice and learn and to really examine what’s going on in the viewfinder before you snap a picture.  Leashes and cages and concrete floors make for dull scenery- just adding a colorful backdrop can make a big difference.  Taking photos in kennels or cages with urine or feces present is a huge turn-off for people- if you get home and find out that there is some waste in your photos, use a photo editor or toss those pics and try again.
  7. If you have multiple photo slots, use them wisely!  Don’t take multiple similar photos and load them up.  On Petfinder, for example, you have the option to upload three photos.  I suggest you try to have a head shot (as we covered!), a good profile or other body shot that helps people see what the animal looks like, and then a just plain for-fun shot.

Good luck and happy shooting!

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Filed under Make a Difference, Pet Adoption Tips, Pets, Rescue