Friday, February 10, 2012

Pups in the Sun

I woke up yesterday morning trying to decide whether to do a photo shoot at the animal shelter, because it was such a nice day, or whether to work on my novel. The county decided for me by bringing in more heavy equipment to do road construction in front of my house. I started loading my car up with photography equipment and ran out of the house without finishing my make-up, drying my hair or putting on jewelry, because I had to leave before they blocked my driveway.

When I got to the animal shelter, the volunteer in charge tried to discourage me from photographing the animals. She said that I probably already had pictures of all of them. I informed her that I don't. She then said that Thursday is a bad day to do photographs because there aren't many volunteers to bring out dogs to me. I said that was okay, because I could bring the dogs out myself. She then started getting controlling about which dogs I could and couldn't handle. I just smiled and nodded. Then she said she had to go soon. 

It sure felt like she had a hidden agenda, because she was discouraging me from being there at all.  Usually, people are very appreciative of the pro-Bono work that I do in photographing these animals professionally in order to help find them forever homes.  I don't have a whole lot of spare time to do such favors, so when I do make time to provide my services for free, I expect my gift to be accepted.  However, instead of getting angry over this unwelcoming woman's efforts to get rid of me, I decided to get to know her and try to figure out what was making her tick.  (Plus I was dreading going back home to all that road construction noise.)

We got talking about things like dog training, how to fit a prong collar, how to establish dominance before stepping out of kennel, etc. Before I knew it, the volunteer was bringing all these dogs out for me to photograph. She forgot all about her claim that she had to leave.  Soon she mentioned that she had been up all night and hadn't had her shower and didn't look her best, and I realized that was her real problem with me being there. She didn't want to be photographed.

Ironically, she ended up interacting with the dogs in such a way that I had to include her in the photos, and I told her that I would send any photos I want to publish that she was in to her first to approve. Some people are self-conscious and worry that they won't look flattering in a photo, but she gave me the best compliment a photographer can get. She said, "I trust you."

I'm trying to include more volunteers and shelter staff in my photos, because I really think that sometimes the photos with people interacting with animals are the most telling.  You see a connection in their eyes.  You see that the shelter animals are well cared for.  People train them, give them hugs, and play with them.  It is also rewarding for the people who care for these animals to see themselves in action in a photograph.  They too see the happiness caught in the eyes of these animals while they are interacting with them, and they can feel good about being the source of that happiness.

I had actually signed out on the time sheet when I thought I was all done with the photo shoot, but this volunteer and I ended up staying an extra hour talking and finding other animals to photograph that weren't on my original list.  When we finally wrapped up, she said to me, "I'm glad you came.  I enjoyed your company.  I didn't realize how much I needed some company."

Later that night she sent out a newsletter to her organization and included a big thank you to me for stopping by to photograph the animals.  I then realized that the work I do with the handlers is just as important as the work I do with the pets.  If the handlers are comfortable with me and having a good time, they are more likely to interact with the dogs and cats in such a way that will bring out more opportunities for better photos.

8 comments:

Dreaming said...

So many times we don't take the time to get to know folks or find out what is on their minds. Especially when we receive 'go away' signals. Good for you! Just think how differently the day could have gone for either of you!

Cheryl Ann said...

I'm glad it turned out to be an enjoyable experience! Yes, sometimes people just need to talk!

Mikey said...

Dreaming said it. I'm so glad you weren't deterred. Those pics mean a lot. I just shared one on FB for a dog on the E-list (euth list) that was down to hours left to live. Friend of mine saw it and adopted the dog, took her home today. Old dog, special needs. So that one photo that a kind lady took and shared, meant that that dog got a home. Keep up the good work, it's worth it!!

fernvalley01 said...

Sounds like a great day! Glad you stuck it out with her

strivingforsavvy said...

Sounds like you made her day!

Beth said...

Wow ... that was a really neat story. We animal lovers often realize that our animal friends can not tell us why they are acting the way they do, but we forget that even though human animals can talk, Sometimes they can not tell us why they are acting the way they act too. You are obviously making a difference and the lives of those animals and in the life of that one volunteer too. :)

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Awww, that's great! It's so good when you're appreciated.

~Lisa

achieve1dream said...

That is so awesome!!!! Proof that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar . . . or however it goes lol. :D