Lonliness {52 HeARTs}

Posted on April 25, 2012


Left only with a warming of the soul
Reaching deep within to touch a place long forgotten
Sweet memories to cherish forever
A moment held
Time stands still
Neatly tucked inside a heart that does not soon forget.

So many dogs. So many lives in the balance. So much love. So much sadness. Thank you Paula Hsien for letting me use the photos of the dogs that you took such good care of while they were in the shelter. They have touched me in so many ways. Thank you HeARTs Speak for helping to give these shelter dogs a voice. And thank you…if you’ve not overlooked the wonderful dogs found in shelters across the country and taken one home.

Music by Emmerson Nogueira

The Streets

Posted on April 21, 2012

A surge of adrenaline pumps through my veins. My hands are tense as I take the key out of the ignition. I am in South Central. I am tentative.


I woke up this morning with an idea swirling in my brain. And so I begin my day. A day that will no doubt be very different from any other. I drink my single cup of morning coffee. I check my email. Take a shower. The thoughts still running through my mind. Brush my teeth. Get ready. Today, these mundane tasks are filled with apprehension. Maybe even a little dread.

The day’s agenda looms in the distance. I grab my camera. I grab my bag of dog treats. I think of the possible sights I may see. I push them from my mind. I take a deep breath. I am focused.

As I’m driving to my destination, I am overcome with an unexpected feeling of peace. I’m about to go into the heart of South Central Los Angeles and photograph the dogs that live there. I don’t know what I’ll find, but I’m certain the scene will pull at my heartstrings—maybe even make me angry. And most definitely I’ll feel a sense of helplessness. The dogs that I see will not be ones I can help. Not directly, anyway.

I don’t know where I’m headed exactly. Florence Avenue and some random crossroad. I suddenly worry that no one knows where I am going. I haven’t told a soul. This is a very rough neighborhood and I will be carrying my expensive camera, driving a brand new car and more than likely, I’ll look very out of place. And so I text Maureen. It was brief.

“I’m in South Central. Photographing dogs”.

She knows me well and responds with a simple, “OK. So sad”.

Nothing more needs to be said.

I find a parking spot. There are some men loitering there. I say hello. They look at me but don’t answer. I can feel their eyes follow me. I’m a little nervous, but don’t show it. I reach the alley and take out my camera. As my first footstep falls on the cement, the barking begins…


I am done. I climb back in my car. The images still fill my head and threaten to drown me. It’s soul crushing. The people. The despondency. The homes. The dogs. The gloom. The sounds. The hopelessness. I see each and every moment again. Feel every emotion wash over me again. I close my eyes. I’m filled with melancholy. With a of deep feeling sadness. For the dogs. For the people that live there.

I am driving home with thoughts swirling in my brain. So different from the ones I had upon waking. And then I saw him. I drove by so quickly I wasn’t sure what it was. But I had to go back and see. I had to take a photograph. I drove around the block and found a parking spot. Then I had to walk across 4 lanes of traffic with no crosswalk. My heart was pounding. Adrenaline coursing through my body. Probably much like the dog I was about to photograph. Images of him entered my thoughts. Where was he trying to go? Why didn’t he turn back? What was he feeling as he stood in a spot not far from where I stood. Trying, like me, to navigate the busy road. I wonder if he suffered.

A surge of adrenaline pumps through my veins. I run to my car. Shut the door. My hands are shaking as I put the key in the ignition. I am leaving South Central. I am overwhelmed. The sight of the dead dog is the last straw and my heart can’t take anymore. But the tears I have anticipated all day, don’t come. I am numb. Thinking. Wondering. Feeling. I drive home in the silence—contemplating when I will return.

Music: Breeze by Xavier Rudd

Friendship {52 HeARTs}

Posted on April 20, 2012


This is tale of two best friends. Gabby and Enzo. Pit bull and cat. An unlikely pair that are joined at the hip. They love each other more than any creature pair I’ve ever seen. Except maybe Gabby and Scrappy.

Gabby’s first kitty friend was a feral cat that I used to feed. Scrappy came with the house when we bought it. How could I not continue to care for such a sweet little girl? My hope was to bring her into the house at some point. That almost never happened. She was a real feral cat that grew up in a wild cat colony in the park at the end of my block. I fed her for about 5 years before she let me near her.

But she loved Gabby. She would follow us on our walks. She would come out of her hiding place every time Gabby came outside. It was wonderful to see such love and friendship.

Then Scrappy got sick. She refused to eat. She wouldn’t greet Gabby. But I was finally able to pick her up. She was tiny. So skinny! I knew something was terribly wrong with her. I immediately took her to my vet.

Turns out she was ancient. Probably 20 years old. The vet examined her and learned that she had lost most of her teeth. She was deaf. She was blind. She even had kitty dementia. The vet said that there was nothing I could do for her except make her comfortable and if she was in pain, put her to sleep.

And so I brought her inside. I tried to get her to eat. I tried everything. Tuna. Cream of Chicken soup. Nothing worked. She was wasting away. The day I decided that I couldn’t let her starve to death, that the kindest thing to do would be to put her to put her to sleep, this is what I found when I came home from work. —————————>

Seems Gabby was teaching her how to eat. And that girl gobbled up that dog food like she hadn’t eaten…well… in weeks! :) From that moment on, Scrappy ate with Gabby. Every single meal. And she gained weight. And she followed Gabby everywhere again. She even slept with her. And because she was blind, would walk over her.

I know these aren’t the best photographs. They are only snapshots, but I am so grateful I captured them. Gabby and Scrappy had a true bond of friendship. That cat lived another year! We called her the energizer bunny. :)  When she finally did pass away, poor Gabby was so depressed. She wouldn’t sleep on the bed she shared with Scrappy. She moped around. It was heartbreaking. So what did we do? We got Gabby another kitty friend, Enzo.

Turns out a few weeks later, a friend found a stray that was pregnant. Enzo was one of the kittens. Gabby loved him right away. And you know what? Enzo loved Gabby immediately too.

But friendship is precious, not only in the shade, but in the sunshine of life, and thanks to a benevolent arrangement the greater part of life is sunshine.  ~Thomas Jefferson

 Are you an artist that helps animals with your craft? Think about joining HeARTs Speak!

HeARTs Speak believes that enabling artists to do what they feel passionately about can help save the lives of thousands of animals. When featured in their best light on a rescue website or pamphlet, people are much more likely to develop a connection that brings them to meeting that animal, which takes them one step closer to adopting that pet into their family.

Pets are our confidantes, best friends, exercise buddies, careful listeners, biggest champions, and our family. Unfortunately, while they may have a bark or a meow, a chirp, a thump or an oink, often times, they need people to be their voice. HeARTs Speak members are those people, and together, we provide that voice.





Day 1

Posted on April 14, 2012

I had been there about an hour. Gone through the dog runs. Passed out treats. Scratched a few ears and muzzles as best I could through the chain that separated us. Now I was standing in the office. I wanted to take out A243244 (pictured) and give him some attention. He’s the one that brought me back. The one I first saw when I went there with Josh. The fawn and white pit bull curled up in a tight ball, tail tucked under, never lifting his head off the ground. But his eyes would follow me. Those eyes. Full of fear. Sadness. Confusion. The scars on his face told a bit of his story, although the details will probably never be known. Dog fights, yes. But where those fights occurred will remain a mystery.

I was second in line. I watched the soft-spoken young man ahead of me. His voice didn’t match his look. Tattoos on his neck and forearms. Baseball cap. Flannel shirt. A thick gold chain around his neck. I wondered why he was there. And then I heard. The woman behind the desk handed him some paperwork. He was here to turn in his dogs. Two of them. She explained the process. He thanked her and walked out as she got on the intercom to call a shelter worker to bring his dogs to intake.

It was my turn. I asked to meet A243244. She pulled up his records. Turns out he is she. Maybe. I’m not sure why the paper on the cage had different information than her computer screen, but she described him. It was the correct dog. I hadn’t seen any others that looked like him. She explained that the dog hadn’t been temperament tested yet, so I couldn’t see him out of the cage. I could leave my name and I would be called in 3-4 days if he passed. I wasn’t sure what to do, since I had no intention of adopting him. I just wanted to show him some kindness right now. I knew that by his behavior and look he probably wouldn’t make it out alive.

Just then I saw the soft-spoken young man with the tattoos enter the runs. I told the lady I would look at some others.

I was curious why the young man was looking at other dogs when he had just turned in his own. Curious and yes, judgmental. My hackles went up thinking that he could callously desert his two pets and replace them. I’ve seen it happen before.

And so I followed him. Pretended like I was also looking for a dog. He walked up and down the rows. Stopping to look at the pits and rotties. I made eye contact with him and said hello. Again his soft, gentle voice threw me as he said hello to me. I walked behind him. I had to know what he was doing.

And so I asked him, “Did you lose your dog?”

“No,” he replied.

I don’t think I responded.

We walked through the kennels together. We were quiet. I wondered what he was thinking as we passed cage after cage. Then I asked him if he was getting a dog. Again his response was no.

He turned to face me. “I just brought my two in.”

All I could say was, “Oh.” Our eyes met and held for a second. Then he turned away and kept walking.

He looked back at me and smiled a very sad smile. When we got to the end of the row, I couldn’t help myself and asked him why he was getting rid of his dogs. The look on his face was pure torture. He explained that he had just moved here from Texas and that the apartment manager told him to get rid of the dogs or find a new place to live. His voice cracked as he told me he’d had the dogs since before his son was born. They came with him from Texas. He’d had them since they were puppies. Then he looked at the floor, unable to continue.

By this time we were at the front of the shelter where 2 dogs in temporary kennels were being processed. His dogs. As soon as they saw him their tails started wagging with joy. He bent down to put his fingers through the bars. I heard him call the pit bull Hazel. She had recently had puppies and looked like she still was producing milk. The other dog was a German shepherd and started barking for his attention. The young man obliged, as I pet Hazel.

He then turned to me and said, “Hazel hates being in a cage.”

He stood up and walked over to me. Again our eyes met. Mine had begun to tear up. He met my gaze and I could see that he too had tears in his eyes. He touched my arm and said quickly, “I gotta go….I just can’t…” His voice trailed off as he quickly made his way to the parking lot.

I watched him walk away. His dogs’ eyes glued to him. Hazel started to howl. He turned back to take one last look at his beloved dogs. There was no hiding his tears. I don’t know if my heart ached more for him or his dogs.

For the last time he met my eyes and said, “It was nice meeting you.” And then he was gone.

I stood there a minute. It was Hazel’s howls that brought my mind back. When I turned to look at her, that’s when my tears really began. She was trying to get the young man to come back. The shepherd was just gazing in the direction he had gone. Silent. Watching.

I walked to the bathroom so I could pull myself together. When I emerged about 10 minutes later, the two dogs were still starring in the same direction. Not moving. Alert. Wondering.

The tears began again and I decided it was time for me to go home. I don’t know when the tears stopped. Somewhere along the 405. And somewhere along the way, I decided that yes, I was going back. To check on Hazel. To make sure she and the shepherd were OK. To do what I can for the countless others I met today. Yes. I’m going back. No matter what.


I’ve decided to save Hazel and the shepherd. If you want to help I’ve set up a way to make a donation toward their care. I know they will appreciate it!




52 HeARTs {Identity}

Posted on April 13, 2012

First week of HeARTs Speak 52 week art assignment. Feel free to leave a comment. And if you’re interested in becoming a HeARTs Speak member check them out here. And if you want to read about the white dog in the photo here’s his story.