Category Archives: Shelter Stories

Project 52 Week 4 – The Eyes Have It

The Project 52 theme for this week is “The Eyes Have It”… a most relevant and interesting topic in so many ways.

Being a photographer much of my focus is on the eyes, whether they be canine or human, for it is our eyes that connect us and give us insight in to what the other is seeing and feeling.

My Lacie Girl is no exception. I love her eyes and how expressive they are.

I have been a volunteer / photographer at Winnipeg Animal Services for over 8 years. The experience has taught me much about dogs and how they interact with their eyes. I have come to realize that making eye contact with a dog is a complete different experience from making eye contact with a human. People make eye contact to connect and show interest… with dogs its a whole different story.

For many dogs direct eye contact is not something they seek. And for the fearful dogs who somehow have found themselves in a noisy and scary shelter, eye contact is often strongly avoided… so much so that they will turn their heads and even their entire bodies away in their attempt to avoid interaction. In their minds, direct eye contact has come to signify a threat or a challenge and they have no wish to be on the giving or receiving end. Their safe place is found in appearing non-threatening and invisible.

I have come to greatly respect a dog’s eyes and what they are trying to tell me. This is something I consider each and every time I enter into a “new” dog’s kennel.

A dog’s stiff stance and hard stare at the entrance of the kennel will have me back off and try again later. But I may slide a cookie through the bottom of the kennel gate as I leave.

A turned away gaze or diverted eyes will have me pause and assess before opening the kennel latch. Once inside, I turn away my own eyes and crouch low if it is safe and possible to do so. Soft words, slow movements and a few tossed treats often work wonders in these situations. But I am always mindful not to push their limits and to respect what they are experiencing and expressing.

For the most part, these scared dogs simply need a little more time to adjust to their new situation. Hard to believe but this next photo is this same dog a few days later and away from the kennel environment.

I love these dogs and I love being able to work with them, the end goal being to find them homes. To do this I need to present them in their best possible light, sometimes not easily done in a shelter setting. Fortunately Animal Services has an outdoor enclosure that I use for the photo sessions. Once outside and away from the kennel environment, the scared and fearful dog persona often simply drops away and we get a glimpse of the real dog… the one that loves to run and loves to play. Throw in a toy and more treats and we have a photo session in the making. Their seemingly innate ability to be happy in the moment is awesome. These dogs teach me every day.

For the still fearful ones we take it slow, let them sniff and give them a little more time to hopefully relax. For these dogs the camera itself can be seen as a threat. It’s almost as if they perceive it as another eye staring back at them, only this one is very big and very black. They quickly revert to turning away their eyes, their heads, their bodies. Not the best circumstances for getting a good adoption photo. This is when a zoom lens and lots and lots and lots of treats comes in handy.

When the dogs appear more comfortable, I once more focus on their eyes. Not only because they are so very beautiful but because eye contact takes on a whole new meaning in an adoption photo. Now we are hoping to stir an emotion, to make a connection and give to the dog what they need the most, a second chance.


Four years ago Lacie was one of these fearful dogs, cowering at the back of her kennel, tail tucked, eyes averted.

Today her story is different, she feels safe and she is loved. Thanks to the shelter dogs I realize what a special gift I have been given when I look into her eyes and she looks lovingly back into mine.

“An animal’s eyes have the power to speak a great language.” ~ Martin Buber

Project 52 _______________________
This post is part of the Pet Photography Project 52 blog circle. To see what the next photographer is sharing for the weekly theme, “the eyes have it”, visit Tracy Allard of Penny Whistle Photography fetching portraits in Coppell and surrounding communities in the Dallas – Fort Worth Metroplex. Continue to click the link at the end of each post in the blog circle until you eventually find your way back here. Enjoy!

Related Links:
City of Winnipeg Animal Services
Winnipeg Animal Services – facebook page
Winnipeg Animal Services Petfinder page

Training Day for Adira

Adira is a bubbly, happy girl who has been waiting for far too long at Animal Services for a forever family. She came to the shelter last August as an unclaimed stray and shortly after that, entered into the adoption program.

Adira is a wiggle bum… I can think of no better way to describe her. She is also a bouncy, strong gal with boundless energy. Although Adira loves attention and loves people, it is apparent that she has had little, if any previous training. She needs an experienced owner… someone with the knowledge, time and patience to teach her doggy manners and help her to reach her full potential.

Sadly, after 6 months, she still waits.

Being in a kennel environment takes its toll on these dogs, often the high energy ones and especially the ones that see the days turn into weeks, the weeks turn into months.

Enter Yury of PAW & ORDER Wpg. a dog trainer and behaviorist. He is donating his time and talent to help Adira and other dogs just like her.

I just happened to be on hand the day Yury came in to work with Adira.

On this day Yury had a special helper named Daisy. She came into W.A.S. with her “mom” to assist with Adira’s training. Miss Daisy is a gal who had been under the care of Animal Services for over a year before she found the perfect owner. She was much loved then, as she is now.

Adira has been showing signs of reactivity so the plan was for her and Daisy to walk together both as a training and an assessment strategy.

Both dogs did amazingly well.

It was awesome to visit with Daisy and witness her happy life.

And it is wonderful that Animal Services supports Yury and the idea of additional training to help dogs like Adira. I am so proud to be a member of their team.

“Understanding your dog and knowing how to control him, develop his potentials, and resolve behavior problems, emotional conflicts and frustrations are no less essential than love and respect.” ~ Michael W. Fox

Post Update:
Happy News – Adira has been adopted!

Related Links:
PAW & ORDER wpg
City of Winnipeg Animal Services
Winnipeg Animal Services – facebook page
Winnipeg Animal Services Petfinder page

Shelter Dogs… Deserving of a Second Look

and a second chance…

shelterdogs

In the shelter environment, the main kennel area is a noisy and often chaotic room… a scary place for many. The confined area and the too close proximity makes it difficult for even the calmest dog to shine.

As you walk through the noise and confusion that is the main kennel room, if you feel a connection with a dog, let the kennel attendants know and they will set up a meet and greet outside of the kennel area. The pups will be SO happy for the chance to stretch their legs.

Once outside in the enclosure, more often than not, you will be amazed at the transformation… that sad shelter dog persona that you met inside, simply falls away and in its place is this new pup…happy, bouncy, often in search of a toy or maybe a treat.

This is your chance to get to know the real dog. The one that is so desperately hoping that you will be his second chance.

Here are just some of their faces:

Ellie

Timber

Remi

Kody

Flash

Elvis

ben

Brina

Callie

Corky

Dazzle

“Open your heart to a shelter dog and they will love you forever.”

All of these dogs are available for adoption through Winnipeg Animal Services Agency.

Related Links:
Deserving of a Second Look
Animal Services Petfinder page
Friends of Winnipeg Animal Services … facebook page

Deserving of a Second Look

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In the shelter, the kennel area for the adoptable dogs is a noisy and often chaotic room. Just the movement of opening the door and entering can set off a chain reaction of barks and howls… a chorus that winds and bounces in its intensity as dogs rush to the front of their pens, their reactions fueled by the opinion of the dog next door. This is the norm and staff and volunteers are accepting and used to the commotion.

whoIam2Not so much new visitors, and this is the sad part. First impressions can be lasting.

But in the shelter environment it is ALL about taking that second look.

As difficult as it may be, it is so important not to judge a dog by his kennel ways, even though at times the antics can be almost intimidating. But, in 9 times out of 10, what is seen is NOT reflective of who the dog really is.

We ( the staff and volunteers ) interact with the dogs so much that we come to know the real dogs residing in the pens and it is quite disheartening to see how their kennel antics hurt their chances of getting adopted. We can’t really blame the visitors… we see what they see. It’s just that we have come to know (and care for) the real dog as well… the one they don’t see… unless they pause and take that second look.

We do our best to educate potential adopters and are more than happy to set up a meet and greet in a more private space. An outdoor enclosure is the perfect choice… a place where the dog can feel safe and can relax, away from the stress and away from the influence of 20 other barking buddies.

shiloh_web

Once taken outside, seeing the transformation never gets old. Sometimes there may be a bit of lingering hesitancy but patience is all that is required. A little time and a few more sniffs and poof, the uncertainty dissipates, especially if a favoured toy or ball is spotted. The ears tip forward, the nose dips down. With a few body shakes, the shelter dog persona disappears and a completely different dog emerges… often a bouncy and fun loving guy looking for nothing more than for someone to toss that ball.

diesel_web

Here is where we are witness to the true nature of this dog, the happy goofy dog, the real dog that we so wish everyone could meet.

So please, if you are thinking of visiting the shelter in hopes of getting a dog, take the time to take that second look… you may just find yourself gazing into the eyes of your new best friend. Well worth the effort and well worth the time, wouldn’t you say.

shayla_web

chevy_web

chase_web

Ace

Ali

Garner

Rory

Related Links:
Friends of Winnipeg Animal Services … facebook page
W.A.S. Petfinder Page
W.A.S. Adoptapet.com page

Can Dogs Feel Sadness…

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Can dogs feel sadness? I believe they can, and I think I met one that has.

Donner was six months old when he first ended up at Winnipeg Animal Services as a stray. He came in with a buddy.. both remained unclaimed. His friend, about the same age, maybe a tad older and all black, was the lucky one. He found a home within the first week of being in the adoption program.

That was way back in December.

Now it is April and still Donner waits. Must be difficult for a pup who is full of vim and vigor to be penned up and expected to wait.

No wonder he gets restless and acts a little stir crazy whenever someone new approaches his kennel. No wonder he barks and spins.

And no wonder people walk on by.

It has been so long that we thought maybe some new photos might help.

As I opened the door to his pen, true to form, Donner jumped up and rested his paws on my chest.

“No wonder,” I thought as I shook my head, gave a “down” and slipped the lead over his ears. “No wonder”.

Starting to doubt that this was going to work, I opened the gate, we stepped out and made our way to the exit. We hadn’t even made it to the end of the aisle when I could sense a change. Quite unexpectedly it was a calm Donner who now walked beside me and once outside he seemed quieter still.

Where was the crazy goof that, just minutes ago, was doing a spinning dance inside his pen. Gone.

My guess was that this is all he wanted … just to get out and be with someone.

Once outside, much to my surprise, he remained calm, no running around in circles, no bounding leaps. He sniffed a bit, chased the toy a little, and then simply came and sat beside me. He raised his head and looked at me with questioning sad, sad eyes. It was almost as if he knew that this little break from kennel life would be like the others… short lived.

My heart broke.

We stayed out side a little longer than the norm, took some photos but mostly played. He perked up some but still his eyes and his essence just seemed so sad.

Poor beautiful boy. I hope the new photos will spark someone’s interest. And I hope even more that that someone takes the time to take this boy outside to meet the real Donner, the Donner that simply needs a friend.

I really really hope.

Post Note Update:
Donner is still waiting for his perfect family but he is one positive step closer. He is now under the care of Darcy’s A.R.C. (Animal Rescue Center). This is a no-kill shelter in Winnipeg. Finally out of the kennel environment after way too long a wait. Thank you Darcy!

**HAPPY NEWS** Donner has been Adopted!!

Related Links:
Darcy’s A.R.C. (Animal Rescue Center)
Winnipeg Animal Services

What It’s All About

popcorn-1It’s simple. I love to capture the world around me in pictures. And, I love, love, love dogs. To be able to bring together these two passions is such a blessing. How fortunate am I!

I have been a volunteer at Winnipeg Animal Services (W.A.S.) since 2010. I love it there. I love the people, the staff… but mostly the dogs.

The majority of the WAS dogs enter through the back door as strays… alone, often unwanted. If no owner comes forward after 5 – 10 days, the dogs are vet checked and many then enter the adoption program. It is on their vet check day that we first meet.

Being in a noisy, kenneled environment is a strange and scary time for these dogs. They have no idea of who I am or what I want. Each dogs reaction is individual. As I open their kennel door to enter, the majority are simply happy to have contact and come easily towards me, with happy grins and wagging tails. For those that are unsure… we go slow and take our time.

After an introduction (differing on the circumstances) I slip on the lead and we walk to the outside enclosure. This is often the first time the dog has seen the outdoors in over a week.

I never tire of the transition that then takes place. Yes, I know it may not happen every time… but I would say that with 98% of the dogs it does. The slinking, head down gait makes way for a bouncier step as a busy nose continues with the diligent investigation of new smells. Slowly the ears relax and fall forward. On a really good day, a toy is spotted and poof! … the fearful stray dog completely disappears, replaced with one happy toy tossing goofball. This is the magic moment.

And this is when I turn the camera to “on”, crouch low to equal height and start clicking… doing my best to capture the real dog before me. Not the scared shelter dog but the dog who, through little fault of his own, now finds himself in need of a second chance.

I learn from these dogs each and every day… and it simply never grows old.

Related links:
Winnipeg Animal Services (facebook page)
Winnipeg Animal Services petfinder page