Posted on September 13, 2012
(Scroll down for the video at the end)
This modern world of Facebook and the internet is a very interesting time. Some of my very best friends, I’ve never even met in person. Hard to believe.
As many of you know, I am an avid animal lover. I always have been. It has only been in recent years—actually the last 10—that I have made the decision to be an animal rescuer as well. Who would have thought that the computer would play such an important role in what I do today.
When I decided to take the plunge into the rescue world, I wasn’t quite sure how I wanted to help. Or what I would be good at. But I knew I loved animals and that I was able to take pretty decent photos of them.
While searching the internet for inspiration I found a photographer that I fell in love with—Printz Photography. The images jumped out at me from the screen. I admired the photographs and hoped to one day be as good.
I’d visit the blog weekly and followed the photographer for years—all the while working in my corner of the world photographing animals, volunteering at rescues and eventually fostering dogs.
Fast forward a few years later. I stumbled on a new group of artists that were trying to help shelter pets with their art. I knew immediately I had found kindred spirits. I immediately joined HeARTs Speak.
Imagine my utter surprise when I found out the founder was none other than Lisa Fishler, of Printz Photography! The photographs I had been admiring for years. She started HeARTs Speak for many of the reasons I found myself drawn to animal photography and rescue.
Through my work with HeARTs Speak I have been able to meet and work with some amazing animal advocates. Rock and Rescue is one of those unbelievable groups. Much like HeARTs Speak, they are passionate artists who want to use their music and talents to help the animals.
Through mutual Facebook friends I was asked to photograph Rock and Rescue’s big event—a concert to raise money for homeless pets. One of the groups playing that night, was Elvis Monroe. I fell in love with their song ‘Comin’ Around’.
Fast forward a few months —I’m on Facebook and see that Elvis Monroe has released their first album. Immediately I buy a copy and on a whim decide to ask the lead singer if I could use my favorite song for a video I was working on to showcase pets that are up for adoption.
Bryan said yes.
This video is the result of people working together for the benefit of dogs and cats without homes. Using their talents to help change the world. Trusting people who are virtual strangers, but with the same passion and coming together in an amazing way.
When I look back at the last few years and think about how I got from point A to point B, I am truly amazed.
Yep, some of my very best friends I’ve never even met. The friendship we share stemmed from a computer screen mixed with artistic passion, the love of animals and the need to do something for the greater good.
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Posted on September 10, 2012
Turn up the volume, sit back and enjoy a day at the park with the Stoops!
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Posted on July 27, 2012
Wow. Thank you PETCO! What a wonderful surprise.
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Posted on July 9, 2012
Sunny is such a funny girl. Her personality continues to grow and flourish.
At night she sleeps in the living room…on the couch…or the chair…or her bed. She likes to mix it up. I’m lucky that I am able to close the front half of my house off from the back part. I found out that she loves cats. But not in the way Gabby does! I’d bet a million bucks in her younger days, Sunny loved to eat cats!
I am extra cautious with the boys because they have no fear of dogs. They will investigate them, sniff them and walk right up to them. Enzo especially. So with any new dog I keep them separted and slowly introduce them.
Sunny stays on the leash when the cats have full access to the house (usually at night when I’m on the couch watching TV, so I can keep a hold on the leash.) So during the first week the cats came out to meet this new dog they’d been smelling for days. Francis made his way over to sofa and jumped up on the back portion and slowly walked over to where Sunny was. (I kept tight hold and careful watch) Sunny was asleep. Then all of a sudden her nose started working. CATS! She sniffed the air with gusto. Because she can’t hear and can’t see well, she didn’t know exactly where the CAT was…She started “biting” the air. (It was adorable, but also made me realize I was right to be so cautious.)
Then Enzo came close. Sunny saw him and just stared. Then she looked at me. Then back at Enzo. Then Sunny looked at Gabby. Then back to the cat. You could see her brain working. “Why aren’t you chasing those things?”She didn’t try to go after him and her hackles stayed put, but she was way too interested in the boys.
Slowly her interest has lessened, but she still is very curious about them and I will never feel comfortable leaving them alone together, but now she will look and then go back to sleep. I’m grateful I am able to keep them seperated in a way that gives them both a nice amount of space.
Gabby loves Sunny. She seems to know that she needs extra attention and company. Gabby always sleeps with us in the bed. When I get up to go to sleep, she will immediately get up and follow. That has changed since Sunny came home. Gabby will stay on the couch with her on most nights.
Sunny also loves Gabby. She will give her kisses. She will sleep next to Gabby, getting as close as she possible can, someetimes squeezing herself in a tiny little spot. It’s adorable.
Sunny has also become quite a talker. She will lay at my feet when I’m editing and do her little whine/bark until I give her attention or pet her. At first I thought it was because she was in pain. Nope. As soon as I get on the floor with her, she will roll on the back, bark, paw at me and nibble the rug.
Every morning when I wake up, I feed the dogs. Sunny loves to eat! (In fact, she’s found the garbage can and once or twice I’ve come into the kitchen to find her giant head immersed in it!)
After they eat, I let them in the backyard to pee and so I can feed the cats. Well, Sunny has decided she would rather not be in the backyard in the morning. She refuses to go out. She looks at me with such a funny face and will turn and run (as fast as her arthritic legs will carry her). She preferes the yard when the sun is out.
Sunny is pretty mobile and can get up on the couch and jump up in the car too. Sometimes it takes her a little longer, but it’s so cute watching her climb up there.
She also loves tennis balls! She’ll even chase them. And she’s still got some power in the jaw. She’s destroyed 5 of them!
Bones are also another favorite treat. She loves them.
Sunny absolutely loves going on walks. She sniffs everything and tries her best to keep up with Gabby. I take the dogs for car rides and walks to downtown Culver City. I’ve written about her in the newspaper and several times people have recognized her. She loves the attention and greets everyone with a tail wag. She also loves the neighborhood dogs.Especially the boys. She’s a female Hugh Hefner. haha
Sometimes when she’s in a deep sleep she’ll wake up with a start and look around. As soon as she sees me or Gabby she relaxes and then falls right back to sleep.
Sunny also does this thing that makes me so, so, so happy. She will stop, look around intently, and then bark, roll on her back and smile. To me it seems like she is wondering if this home is real, maybe she’s dreaming…and then when she realizes, yes, it’s real, she can’t contain her joy.
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Posted on July 4, 2012
If I close my eyes I can still see him clearly. Huge smile. Gorgeous face. Giant blockhead. Painted like a cow with beautiful blue gray spots. His name was Rocky and he was such a happy pup. Full of life. Bouncing around his kennel, taking treats gently out of volunteer Ryoko Matsui’s hand. I fell in love the minute I saw his photo. He even liked cats and other dogs. He was a stray that ended up at the shelter. Everything was in place to bring him home except one thing. We really weren’t ready for a second dog. We already had Gabby plus 3 cats. No room at the Fusaro Inn.
I put him out of my mind- for a while anyway- but I found myself going back to his adoption page. Finally I couldn’t stand it and begged the husband to just let me meet him. And let’s face it, meeting him meant I was going to bring him home. The husband reluctantly agreed and I made the call to the shelter. I was put on hold for what seemed like forever. Finally, the shelter volunteer came back on the line. “I’m sorry,” she said, Rocky is no longer here. He was put down yesterday.” I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. Tears welled in my eyes and a lump immediately formed in my throat. Devastated, I hung up the phone.
I still feel guilty about Rocky. If only I had made my decision one day earlier. Twenty-four hours too late. A single day. I cried as I watched his video one last time. Since Rocky, there have been others. It’s one of the horrible realities of working with rescues. I try not to think about the ones who never made it. And when they do pop into my head, the sadness overwhelms me.
There was beautiful Sky, a husky that was so malnourished and covered with mange she didn’t even look like a dog. The scabs were thick and she had almost no hair. Danielle Rollibard, founder of I.C.A.R.E Rescue saved her from her from the shelter.
“Sky was the sweetest thing ever – every part of her body had scabs and sores on it,” remembers Danielle. “The shirt I wore to pick her up from the shelter was covered in blood from her poor little body.”
Sky had never known love and all she wanted to do was be held in Danielle’s arms. I had made plans to photograph her for the I.C.A.R.E website. Just like Rocky, I never got to meet her. Danielle tried her best to save Sky. At least she died knowing she was loved.
There are so many others that don’t. They die alone in shelters. In backyards. In trash cans. Yes, there are people out there that do unspeakable things to animals and when they are done with them, throw them away like garbage. No dignity. No respect. Never having been loved. Never feeling safe. It’s these lost ones that I want to remember.
Paula Hsien volunteers at a local shelter and makes it her business to valiantly work to save as many dogs as she can. She remembers each and every one.
“During their stay at the shelter, they brightened our days with their beautiful smiles and unconditional love. They made us laugh with their silliness and playfulness. Even though they are no longer with us, they will be remembered, for they have left their paw prints on our hearts forever.”
“Vixen was quite a social butterfly. When we’d go out for walks she would greet everybody. She’d follow me around or would just sit next to me.
Manouka was a happy girl and a big ball of love. My heart was torn into pieces when I found out that she was euthanized because the shelter lacked space.
Mali came in as a stray. She gave me little kisses on the hand. The fact that she was willing to give me a chance tells me that she still had lots of love in her heart.
Honey was a sweet girl who won the hearts of many volunteers. She was super playful and full of energy.
Rayna was such a good girl. She’d sit and wait for me patiently when I passed out treats. She loved to give kisses.
Dolly was dumped at the shelter because she was too old. A lifetime of giving love and she died alone in a shelter without her family.
Brittle loved to be around people and was just a sweet boy with kind, soulful eyes.” The list could go on forever.
Without people like Hsien, Rollibard and Matsui these dogs would never know human kindness. I don’t know how they do it, but I’m glad they do. And so it’s time I remember Rocky and Georgie and Jazz- three dogs that touched my life and left way too soon. And I thank the selfless men and women that can’t turn their backs on their plight. Memories like these need to be remembered. These loving creatures that were here for just a moment, but made a lasting impression- their short lives do matter.
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Posted on June 24, 2012
What a fantastic fundraiser! There was great food, lots of raffle prizes, a silent auction and of course lots of dogs. Thank you K9 Connection for all you do for the dogs and the kids. You are all amazing!
For those interested in coming to next year’s bash, be sure to sign up for their mailing list. And if you want to donate to the cause, you can do that at any time!
Turn up the volume and take a look at all the fun!
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Posted on June 17, 2012
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Posted on June 10, 2012
S.T.A.R.T. SHELTER TRANSPORT ANIMAL RESCUE TEAM (A 501c3 non-profit) was formed in May 2011 by Steve Spiro, Suzanna Urszuly, Rene Ruston and Adam Tarshsis.
They began raising money and transporting dogs from high kill shelters here in LA and sending them via van or plane to Oregon, Washington (WA) and Canada where they go to reputable no kill shelters or foster homes.
To date they have transported 1468 doomed death row dogs who are placed into loving homes.
Each transport costs between $2500-$3500 depending on the destination of the receiving group.
THE GOAL – to raise enough money to fund at least 8 transports a month.
They are also are teaming up with a pilot who can fly 30 dogs at a time and made the local news.
Happy one year anniversary guys! You are awesome.
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Posted on June 10, 2012
It’s amazing the difference a day makes. Yesterday I left the shelter depressed and overwhelmed. Today I feel invigorated and filled with purpose.
This face hasn’t left my mind since I walked out of the shelter yesterday.
Her name is Shady. She is 16 years old. She has been at the shelter since May 29th. She is despondent, dejected and lost. Her face has invaded every moment I’ve lived today. Driving to the Riverside shelter…she popped into my head. Photographing the dogs there…she made her presence known. Eating lunch…there she was again.
With every thought of her, it became obvious what I had to do. But I’m still somewhat sane and I knew that it was probably a crazy idea. And so I made a couple calls to some friends to get their thoughts on the subject. My question…Am I insane to pull a 16 yr old dog from the shelter? Turns out no one was around to talk me off the ledge. I continued to debate with myself about Shady.
I also sent an email to my contact at Carson to get more information about her. I knew that he probably wouldn’t get back to me soon, as he’s off on sundays and busy on mondays getting back into the swing of things. Imagine my surprise when almost immediately after I sent that email I got a response from him.
I thought Shady was a stray that found her way into the shelter. Turns out I was wrong. She is an owner surrender. My contact gave me all the info about her. Living her entire life with a family and then dumped because she was too old.
With this new information, her face haunts me even more.
My friends were still MIA. Probably ehjoying their sunday with family and friends. I really needed to talk to someone about Shady. The husband was out. If I brought up the subject, I’m sure he would say no way. But he is a softy inside and if I show up with her, he won’t be able to turn her away. (Yes, I’m sneaky like that)
I called my vet. (Who happens to be the best vet around.) He answered the phone with dread, I’m sure. I would never call him on his day off unless it was an emergency.
And so I told him about Shady.
“I have almost made up my mind and I know it’s crazy, but I can’t let her die alone in the shelter. I just don’t know what to do. If you tell me not to, I probably won’t listen.”
He knows me well and didn’t even try to talk me out of it. Instead he told me to bring her in to the office when I get her and he will check her out. See? Best vet ever.
I made one last call to a friend and fellow rescue type, Steve. He is very level headed and doesn’t act on impulse like I do. He asked me what I was going to do. In that moment my decsion was made.
I am going to pull her from the shelter and find her a home. I’m going to treat her eye and make sure she isn’t in any pain. We’ll see what happens. I have no idea how her health is…at 16 years old there could be so many things wrong. But I’m throwing caution to the wind. I think she deserves to spend the last days (or months) feeling loved.
I’ve set up a Chip-In account for her to cover her medical and pull fees. And of course lots of yummy dog treats are in her future.
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Posted on June 9, 2012
Some days I’m filled with hope and purpose when I walk into the shelter. Others I go through the motions, trudging along as if I’m wading through quicksand.
As I walked in the shelter I could physically feel my heart close. It slammed shut without warning. I’m not sure why, but the noise, the smells, the dogs were just too much for me today. Maybe because I was there to photograph the U-Haul dogs. Maybe because I knew that placing some of them would be near impossible. Maybe because even with all my efforts the dogs and cats just keeping coming. It feels so futile.
Love. Warmth. Understanding. A friendly touch. A place to belong. Feeling like you matter. Isn’t that what we all want? Canine, human, feline—our needs are much the same. Is it too much to ask? Apparently it is.
As I walked the rows and rows of kennels, the walls felt like they were closing in on me, the air getting thinner. I imagine it’s what the animals might feel at times. Maybe all the time. The feeling is horrible. I just wanted to run out of there and never look back.
But I didn’t. I stayed. I photographed. I gave treats. I scratched ears.
The dogs cried. Whined. Barked. Some wagged. Others licked. Some turned and fled. Others cowered. Some never even lifted their heads.
My heart stayed firmly locked down. It bothered me that I felt nothing as I walked the halls. I don’t know what it means, if anything. Feeling helpless is not something I’m used to. I don’t know. Maybe I’ve just been given a taste of what it feels like to be a discared animal. Alone. Scared. Shut down.
It’s bleak. It’s dark. It’s overwhelming. No living creature should ever have to endure such things. For me I know it will pass. For the animals…I can’t even think about it.
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