Last summer I got a call asking if I was up for photographing some “really sad dogs and cats.” The site was the Camarillo Animal Shelter, a place I knew well. The images were later used for a cover story in the Ventura County Reporter.
I do get sad when I visit the animal shelter—sad that I don’t own a Ponderosa-sized spread where I could keep dozens of dogs. I get the same sad feeling in pet shops. When it comes to dogs, I want one of each. Or more.
Anyway, the shoot was early in the morning. I got there first and heard the dogs talking amongst themselves. The last thing I wanted to do was shoot a dog inside the cages. I noticed three ladies at the counter and learned they were there to pick up their lost dog.
Perfect! Nothing sad about that.
We got their permission to photograph them and I quickly looked for a place with decent light. Good luck. It was hard, bright summer light. I found a spot of shade in the meet-and-greet yard, arranged the ladies in the shade and had them bring in the dog. Then it was just a matter of documenting the moment.
After that, I shot some more with the staff and went on to the cats, snakes, rabbits and, yes, a horse.
In the puppy section they brought out a 3-month old who they’d guessed to be a border collie (doesn’t it look a bit large for that breed?). I showed the photo to the family and they all decided we should adopt it. We got there 30 minutes too late; someone else beat us to it. So we took a tour and found Stella. She’s the second dog we’ve adopted from the Camarillo Shelter, and the second dog who was our second choice (we lost a coin flip the other time).
Both of those dogs have been great finds: quirky, good natured, smart and happy to makes themselves at home, even though it’s not the Ponderosa.