I never set out to become a pet photographer. But a combined love of photography and passion for animal rescue has blossomed into a business over the course of the last decade and I emerged as a “pet photographer” quite unexpectedly.
It started when I founded the non-profit Happy Tails, creating note cards featuring heartwarming stories and photos of adopted animals. Along with these photos and rescue “tales”, information about caring for animals and saving lives, such as euthanasia statistics and the importance of spay/neuter, was included in the copy. By sharing photos of adopted animals that people could relate to, we found a way to direct them to adoption and to connect the public with shelters and rescue groups in the community.
I started volunteering with these groups and began helping in other ways. Photographing events and taking portraits of animals in need of a home, hoping to catch the eye of a potential adopter. All the while I held my day job as a business consultant. I would leave on assignment during the week and return home on weekends to focus on what I really wanted to be doing – photographing animals. As I photographed rescue pets, people began to ask if I would photograph their own animals and “phoDOGrapher” was born.
Several years into photographing, I left my consulting career but was able to put those business consulting skills to good use as Board President for the United Coalition for Animals, allowing me to completely immerse myself in “all things animal”. We opened the region’s first low-cost, high-volume spay/neuter clinic, offering an effective and humane alternative to euthanasia in tackling overcrowded shelters and the euthanasia epidemic, (tragically, the leading cause of death of our country’s companion animals). I am so proud to report that UCAN has performed more than 60,000 surgeries!
In 2012, I founded My Furry Valentine, the area’s largest animal adoption event. In five days, we’ve found homes for more than 1,300 animals! Photographing these adopted animals with their new families and in their new homes is one of the great joys of my job.
More than a decade ago, I started down this path and have used my business and creative skills to help animals in many ways. I still lend my support to local groups when and where it is needed – for the work of helping animals in need is never done. But its been a long journey to get to where I am today and I’m happy to finally be in a place where I can allocate more of my time to working with clients creating images that celebrate their love and devotion to their own companion animals – those fortunate enough to have captured the heart of a human and been bestowed the coveted title of “pet”.
If you have a special pet that you’d love to have photographed, give me a call at 513-702-7849. I look forward to working with you to capture a moment in time with your pet that will become a cherished memory of a special friend.
Animal Legal Defense Fund – For more than three decades, the Animal Legal Defense Fund has been fighting to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. This group knows how to get things done! Founded in 1979 by attorneys active in shaping the emerging field of animal law, ALDF has blazed the trail for stronger enforcement of anti-cruelty laws and more humane treatment of animals in every corner of American life.
Best Friends Animal Society – Our nation’s largest no-kill animal shelter, who’s mission is to bring about a time when there are no more homeless pets.
Mercy for Animals – I’ve been a fan and supporter of MFA since it was founded over a decade ago by a young activist and dear friend, Nathan Runkle, as a high school student. I’ve watched as Mercy For Animals has grown to become one of the nation’s strongest and most active, effective and influential national non-profit organizations dedicated to preventing cruelty to farmed animals and promoting compassionate food choices and policies.
Physcians Committee for Responsible Medicine – SInce 1985, PCRM has been influencing advancements in medicine and science, leading the way in ethical research and education. They advocate for preventative medicine, especially good nutrition, and for higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research. Personally, I never donate to a charity without first checking their Humane Seal of Approval on-line listing, to ensure that my donation dollars don’t inadvertently end up funding painful, cruel and outdated animal testing. There are many progressive, humane and effective research alternatives out there – just log onto their site to locate them.
Tribe of Heart – This charitable organization empowers caring people everywhere to become agents of peaceful social change through their award-winning films that awaken compassion and deepen each individual’s understanding of the interconnectedness of all life. Their vision is of a world free of violence and full of beauty, and their remarkable films are changing lives every day.
United Coalition for Animals – Founded in 2001, UCAN runs the region’s only low-cost, high-quality, high-volume, non-profit spay/neuter clinic for cats and dogs. Since opening its clinic doors in 2007, UCAN has performed more than 40,000 surgeries, tackling the pet euthanasia epidemic in our country head on.
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
If you’re an animal lover and haven’t partaken in this quirky little book yet, you’re seriously missing out! It’s a beautiful story of a dog, Enzo, reflecting on his life on the eve of his death. An uplifting story of love, loyalty and the absurdities of human life, as only a dog could tell it.
Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals & the Call to Mercy by Matthew Scully
I’ll be the first to admit, the title of this book sounds a bit scary. But if you’re an animal advocate, you owe it to yourself – and to the animals – to read this book. Scully’s arguments are thoughtful and compelling, persuasive and articulate. Dominion is one of the best books ever written on the subject of animal welfare. Scully, a journalist and former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, chooses to fight on his own ground, and he rightly argues that the important thing is not insisting upon equal “rights” for animals, but in treating them with a modicum of respect and dignity. Scully’s work is described as being “…sensitive and insightful without being sentimental…. Matthew Scully has set forth a case – in a wry and riveting manner – that will resonate with any reader who values logical reasoning and ethical conduct.”
The Death of a Wombat by Ivan Smith
I was given this simple picture book more than 35 years ago, and it haunts me still today. It is a story of a bushfire in Victoria, Australia, with an environmental message – a fire caused by sunlight concentrated on a discarded bottle. As other animals flee the fire, this is a story of one little wombat, described as “pleasant, fussy, gentle, timid, slow-minded and polite”, waddling slowly home to doze in his little hole. Try as he may, he will never make it. Yet he pushes along, waddling slowly, yearning for the safety of his little home. For what other choice does he have? The only thing he can control in all the chaos surrounding him is to put one foot forward and continue on his way, to the only refuge he has ever known. His desperate journey ends when the little wombat finally reaches the shoreline and slowly slips into the water to ease the burns that now cover most of his body. The Death of a Wombat has been described as “an eco-fable about our response to the (at the time of writing) looming environmental catastrophe”. Sadly, with the recent bushfires in Australia (and other tragic wildfires across our own nation), this is no longer an eminent and looming threat, but a real calamity causing untold suffering, loss and destruction to animals and human alike. I will always remember it as a tragic story caused by the carelessness of man, a plea to care for our environment and a reminder to consider the untold consequences of our actions.
Hey, Little Ant by Phil & Hanna Hoose
I absolutely love this children’s book! It’s a great entree to a discussion about compassion with your children, and has proven an effective icebreaker for educators and caregivers to discuss with children everything from bullying to the use of force to the ethical treatment of animals. One of my favorite lines is the Ant talking to the Kid who is getting ready to squish him under his shoe, “I can see you’re big and strong, decide for yourself what’s right and wrong. If you were me and I were you, what would YOU want ME to do?”. In the author’s words, “the ending liberates children, allowing them to form their personal answers to very big questions, something they will all face at some point in their lives“. Here’s a link to a post I did about this book awhile back.
The Shawshank Redemption by Frank Darabont
Something about this story has always resonated with me. Liberation, hope, perseverance, justice and ultimately, redemption. (And the fact that the super talented and über cool Morgan Freeman has a starring role doesn’t hurt either!). Why it never won an Oscar is beyond me.
The Witness by Jenny Stein & James LaVeck
An award-winning documentary, this film has been translated into 11 different languages, sharing its inspirational message of courage and transformation. The Witness is about taking a stand and speaking on behalf of those who have no voice. “It is one man’s truth that cries out for mass exposure… it may be the most important and persuasive film about animals ever made (LA TImes)”. Eddie Lama is a personal friend of mine and I encourage you to hear his incredible story. Watch online!