Shelter animals

Yesterday afternoon, I went to the dogs.

And cats.

I drove to a local SPCA shelter, camera in hand – well, on the floor beside me – to assist in creating adoption materials for the furry friends in the facility.

Today, there were nine dogs, ten or so adult cats, and a smattering of kittens. Discussing the schedule with the facility manager, we decided to start with the dogs, taking them singly out on a grassy area behind the building with a handler, where I’d greet each, play a bit and then shoot the pictures. Hopefully, the kind of pictures that move someone to adopt.

If there were time remaining I’d visit with the cats and picture them as well.

Oh, I could fall in love, many times over. Well, nine today. The first time I visited a shelter, it was to shoot young puppies for adoption. Today I pictured a variety of breeds and ages from nearly a year to nine or so, and mini to rather large indeed. Today’s visit, far more so than with the puppies, reaffirmed my belief in the work of the BC SPCA.

I met the little ones first. (I think the staff might’ve been determining how I’d work with the dogs.) Both of them were lovely little guys, friendly and inquisitive, but also a bit distracted by “I’m outside! It’s not walk time! Whee!” responses to being out on the grass. Both of them danced a bit with the handler, and I snapped away, giving each my attention as the camera caught theirs.

One was a stray brought in to the shelter, the other was surrendered as the owners no longer had the time for a dog. That’s a common story; given the vagaries of life, it’s one I can understand, if not always appreciate. Stuff happens, and bringing your pet to the SPCA is a much preferable choice to leaving them somewhere for someone else to find. If someone does indeed find them.

That’s what happened with the next guy I met: he was tied up at a dump site with a note that he was free. He was found and brought to the shelter. He’s more than friendly: he’s exuberant in meeting new people and wanted to explore everywhere he could reach on his lead. Energetic, he’ll need a high energy person to keep up with him (or a big yard and toys!) He’s one that I’d love to have in my life, but I only have that level of energy when I’m both very well rested and very highly caffeinated.

Of the six other dogs, each stands out in their own way. I was covered in kisses from a couple, and hairs from a couple more: I received head butts and more than one dog stood against my hip as I petted, getting more touch.

I came home with rather disturbing imaginings of how some of them must’ve been trained by their previous owners, and yet inspired by how resilient they all are, most notably the one that cowered from my stranger’s touch. As we were finishing up and the handler walked the last back into the building by another entrance, I went in by the side door I’d been using, passing by the kennels. Now back inside for over thirty minutes, she approached her kennel door quietly. When I rested my hand against the door, she gently nosed against it, sniffed, then licked at my hand. Incredible resilience. She’ll make a wonderful, loving addition to a home.

I’d time remaining, so I visited with the adult cats next, and I’ve just two notes: I’ve never met a friendlier, warmer bunch of cats in my life, and I’ve more to learn when it comes to picturing them well.  Still, the purrs were cool: one on my left hand, one at each of my legs. I have a few lovely photos of them that I’ll send to the manager when I’m finished processing.

If you are considering a pet, please visit your local SPCA, humane society, or rescue society to meet the incredible furry friends that can be found there. If life won’t accommodate a pet, consider donating time, funds or supplies as you can. With winter fast-approaching, any extra old blankets you’ve around, or any new ones you’d care to part with (that lime green one from your mother-in-law?) would be welcome. Toys, dishes, leashes and collars, travel kennels, and many other supplies are often needed: ask your local organization what they might need.

In searching for a quote to close with, Ghandi feels appropriate tonight: “the true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.” While I suspect many may feel he was referring solely to people, I believe that our animal friends are members of society and our treatment of them part of the measure.

The SPCA and organizations like it are also part of that measure, and I’m grateful they’re here.

(To see a selection of pets available for adoption in British Columbia, click here. For other jurisdictions, please Google your local no-kill shelter. )


Event Full

Spending much of my summer months dedicated to volunteering and event photography has been wonderful. In addition to the Summer Movie Series and Make Music Festival, I’ve been a regular attendee and photographer for Instant Theatre events, and the Vancouver International Improv Festival. I’ve also been one of several photographers for the BC SPCA’s Paws for a cause and the 6th Annual AIDS Vancouver Celebrity Dim Sum.

I’ve been volunteering with one organization more regularly, assisting in the data entry and maintenance of their Raiser’s Edge Donor relationship database. It’s the kind of data analysis I still enjoy – how to get the most effective information in to, and back out of, a database with both flexibility and data controls in place – and an accomplishment I’ll relish. I’m planning to continue event photography for Instant, the BC SPCA, and AIDS Vancouver as much as I can.

My own photography has slowed during this busy stretch, with my photo trips becoming nearer to the next event or activity on my schedule. Even a few minutes examining a wire fence can prove a respite from running. The cameras are nearly always with me, to catch those moments, and help balance my hour-long commute. My second group show is winding up, and I’m in the planning for my solo show late this year. It’s been – again – fun.

Recent event photos can be seen on Flickr, though I’ll be sharing some here as well in the next few days.  Time to catch up a bit.

Skate park, Enderby, BC

Enderby Boards

Skate park, Enderby, BC

Skate park, Enderby, BC

I spent much of my Canada Day long weekend about 500 kilometres from home, in the small city of Enderby, BC, having travelled with my cousin to visit old family friends. The trip provided many opportunities for photography, with both of us stopping the car on occasion to get shots – or shouting at the other to stop, and back up a bit.

Canada Day was hot. Oh, more emphasis really is needed there: Canada Day was HOT! We kept our celebrations low-key. A relaxing morning, followed with a tour of the nearby park where the festivities of the day were held. A classic car show dominated much of the park field, and I’ve captured a few here.

Unused to the heat, in a very short time I was ready to get out of the sun, and we headed slowly back to the car. Along the way, in the back corner of the park, I found a small boarding area. It was just a couple of ramps and walls, really, with two young children attempting to run up them. They kept failing and laughing. I stopped to examine and photograph the graffiti on the walls. The art all seemed of the spray-and-run variety, layered one on another.

Skate park, Enderby, BC

Skate park, Enderby, BC

Skate park, Enderby, BC

Skate park, Enderby, BC

I moved on when one of the children asked if I’d help them climb the walls. “Maybe you should get your mom or dad to help you up there. Have fun!”


Views change

Over the Canada Day long weekend, I was visiting a lovely old family friend a few hundred kilometres from home.

My cousin and I took the opportunity presented by the three-day weekend to travel to the interior of British Columbia, there to catch up with this elderly woman and her local family. We took my cousin’s car. I was mostly content to relax into the weekend, letting my cousin set the pace and pattern.

Sunday over dinner, we were discussing the possibility of a new apartment building being constructed on the slope below her own. One of the first comments in the conversation was, “I hope they don’t ruin my view.”

I looked out at the view, and reminded myself to capture the image with the morning sun. Truly, her suite is focused on the view to the southeast and it is a gorgeous view. It’s filled with the valley floor, the river, and mountains and cliffs in the distance. In the morning light it really is breathtaking. A taller building would obstruct the morning sun.

Were a taller building constructed in front of my own suite I too would be disappointed in losing the view. In fact, I was; years ago, by a building one storey higher than my own 6th floor suite. The view from my suite changed significantly during construction, and after completion even more so. My new neighbours across the way liked to put on, uh, shows. I found myself closing the curtains more often, and reminding myself that more than a towel was necessary when I was just from the shower.

I adapted. She’ll adapt, if a new building is constructed. Views change.

That’s what I said to my cousin and our friend as we looked out at the potential changes to her view. Even without new construction, her view will change over time. Some of the changes will occur slowly, as trees encroach the walkway and sides of her building. Other changes occur quickly, as the plants grow, and traffic loads on the highway below change with the seasons. Some changes will provide delight, and others cause sadness.

Still others cause us to sit in wonder, like her living room view of sunrise.

During the course of the weekend, we learned that our lovely friend is considering retiring to another nearby town, slightly larger than her own. The change places her closer to medical facilities as well as her children and their families.

Views change. We adapt.

Self-promotion 101

Last night was the “Art From the Heart” benefit for the PACE Society in Vancouver. The event was a success thanks to the efforts of its organizer, volunteers, and the participating artists. Since it was also my first public showing of my photography, I was intrigued by the comments I heard as visitors walked through the rooms and examined all of the works present. I’m taking away a number of compliments on my images, and some wonderful comments on the composition of one piece in particular.

I ended the evening thinking: oh, yes, I’ll do this again.

This afternoon, while in a favourite locally-owned coffee shop, I found myself looking around the walls at art works hung, and wondering if my photography would work in the space. They regularly have local artists’ works on display, and I always check out the new displays, sometimes choosing my seat so that I can carefully examine a work.

Today, I wistfully looked about for a long while, then decided to check how they determined who would be displayed. And did it immediately.

The action is simple. Get up, walk over, and ask, “how do I go about getting on your walls? I’m a photographer.” Incredibly simple action. The owner’s response was encouraging, and I’ll be sending her an email later with links to a piece or two. Or six. I’m very glad I asked the question, and very pleased with the results.

I simply asked the question immediately.

I’m working on a fast rule: if I don’t mention my efforts, no one will know about the work I’m doing. If I don’t ask, none can know I’m interested.

I’ve had similar responses for nearly every promotion activity I’ve undertaken for “Art From the Heart.” The people I’ve spoken with receive the information positively. Or at least, neutrally. I’ve spoken in classes, meetings, with friends old and new alike, and mentioned the show in most every conversation I’ve had. For weeks.

The line, “I’m a photographer and am participating in my first show…” rolls easily off the tongue with practice. As little as five weeks ago, I’d have claimed it odd to talk about my images. For me, the anticipation of a self-promoting activity has proven more intimidating than the activity itself. I now plan for the eventualities: carry the business cards, a note pad and pens. And I try to act immediately when a question arises.

This first show has proven a wonderful learning process. Next!