Scrolling through your facebook feed and you come across a cute photo of a puppy. The puppy is on the page of a rescue that you follow, or maybe one of your ‘friends’ shared the photo. The puppy is wearing a cone and it looks like something is happening with one of her eyes. You take the moment to read the caption and maybe your heart breaks more than usual because there’s “something” that resonates a bit more closely than you’re used to.
This is what happened with me and the photo of Callie.
I saw Callie’s photo come up on my feed, posted by my friend Norma. I know Norma because I’ve spent a good amount of time at her and her husband's home photographing the various dogs they’ve lovingly brought in to foster. To help them heal. To help them rest. To take a breath from their journey of unknown. To get to know love, comfort and care.
I’m not sure what compelled Norma and her (talented artist of a husband) Gord to start fostering animals. For some reason that has never come up in our visits. With all the people I’ve met, the foster homes I’ve been to, I’ve never asked. Maybe I assume I know the answer… maybe the answer seems obvious to me. Maybe I’m too focussed on the dog, endeavouring to get the best photographs I can with the least amount of disruption to the animal and household. Regardless of the reasons, I’m just thankful they’re there.
So, here was Callie. A mere six weeks old wearing a cone and the tell-tale stitches holding together the lids of her left eye. An enucleation of the eye. An injured eye that could not be saved. It was almost six years ago a similar image came across my social media feed and was burned into my memory. Back then it was a little dog named Coco. He had he same purple stitches and shave pattern around the eye.
Today Coco is Mister Coco, currently sleeping under pillows on my couch. One of the fosters we brought home to heal, but he never left. Now my little shadow and one of the reasons that I find myself stopping what I’m doing to go visit an animal at its “home away from home”.
These homes are so important in the world of animal rescue. With limited spaces for the sheer volume of animals who are in need of a new life, it seems that it’s now up to caring humans to step up. And Norma and Gord have.
I first met them Jan 17, 2014, when I went to photograph Molly*. She was one of the first dogs rescued through the Victoria Humane Society (VHS). She had been found dumped, left abandoned at a remote location near Logan Lake, BC. They stepped up to foster her, and here we are over four years later and she’s never left. She’s an official member of the family. Molly may still be nervous of newcomers, but when I visit, a bit of cupboard love helps bridge the gap.
Norma + Gord have also welcomed a foster named Simon. He came in to care with VHS as one of the ‘mountain man’ dogs. He was so shut down, it was just heartbreaking. When I met Simon in February 2015 he was just shaking. So, so scared. I wouldn't even try to pet him… he barely let me, a stranger, look at him. But when I saw him this time, now that he's an official member of the family, I got to rub his belly, his chest, his face… and he wasn’t petrified. This isn't to say he was *super* relaxed (especially when the camera was out), but he let me, a stranger, in and gave me a wee bit of trust. His eyes went soft and he even subtly asked for more when I stopped. Apparently he now sits, shakes a paw, rolls over, lays down when visitors aren’t around. He takes treats, but only after he’s ‘worked’ for it, meaning only after he does sit, etc. This was not trained… this was all Simon.
And then there’s Paisley… surviving not only two bouts of heartworm, but being shot (the pellets are still in her leg) and enduring an untreated broken foot. Despite whatever has happened in the past, she’s let it go and this girl’s tail NEVER stops wagging - it's a photobomb of its own. Paisley loves above all.
All three have welcomed little Callie into their home, letting her run around, be silly, and try to play with their tails. But most of all, heal and learn. I have no doubt that when Callie is ready for adoption, she will get a great home and the chance to navigate life with the support of a loving human by her side.
So, here are some photos of what was supposed to be a ‘short visit to get a few photos’ that turned into almost two hours of chatting and marvelling at the incredible progress of some super special dogs. Thanks N+G!
If you would like to donate to the Victoria Humane Society to help pay for Callie’s surgical bills, or to the society in general to help pay for food, spaying/neutering, transportation, etc for animals in need of rescue, or already in foster care, please visit their website: www.victoriahumanesociety.com
*Click here to see Molly in January 2014 (scroll to the bottom of the page)
Today I got to meet Pretty Girl - a lovely Bernese Mountain Dog who's recently given birth to nine fluffy pups.
She's also made headlines recently.
Shortly after she came into care of the Victoria Humane Society, Pretty Girl helped nurse 11 orphaned puppies whose mom passed away after giving birth... in addition to her own 9. She is a super dog. For real.
You may question whether a dog should nurse 20 puppies. I would agree with 'no'. However, it was only for a few hours. When the 11 orphaned pups were taken away, Pretty Girl was sad. She followed out the rubber bin they were being transported in and watched as the bin was taken away.
Once out of sight, she headed back inside her foster mom's home and saw her own 9 puppies were still there, she gave them each a sniff, and all was ok again.
When I came to her home today she was a tail-waggin, smiley ball of fluff.... until I took that first photo.
Click, went the shutter.
Right away she skulked over to her foster mom for comfort. When I noted how frightened she was to Dianne (her lovely foster mom) she said that someone (no names mentioned) had recently used a flash to take her photo and it scared her to bits and has seemed to make her nervous of big cameras ever since.
So I gave her pups a snuggle and then worked on helping her get used to the sound of my camera. Who knows if she was afraid of big cameras before she came into care, but she knew the word treats, and some cupboard love definitely helped. By the end of the hour I'd say she didn't love my camera, but she and I did manage to get some photos of her not looking terrified - including some of her with the cute way she tucks her front paws under her when laying next to her pups, and even a head tilt. And with a little help she'll hopefully not be as afraid of it in the future because she's so adorable, people are going to wanna take her photo wherever she goes. Plus it'll be a good excuse to go back and visit her!
I've photographed over 500 dogs in the care of rescues and shelters as well as gaggles of newborn puppies, but the moms get me every. single. time. It's easy to get lost in puppy breath, but to give love to the momma dog - the one who's done the work - is something that gets me right in the heart bone.
In about 7 weeks or so Pretty Girl's litter of 'colour-named' pups will be weaned and then she and her gang will all be available for adoption through the Victoria Humane Society.
I can't wait to visit them again and watch them grow up.
This lovely girl definitely lives up to her name, in looks and personality. xo
p.s. the cute 'one of these things doesn't look like the other' is Missy, Pretty Girl's 13-year-old foster sister - gah!