Several Fridays a month, I go to the Harbor Humane Society to take pictures of the adoptable animals. This is something I’ve wanted to do for more than 10 years, but I never quite made the time or narrowed in on how I could help. As I started forming the idea for Grumpy Pups, it suddenly clicked how volunteering at the Humane Society was a natural fit. It gives me practice each week photographing animals in conditions that really stretch my skills, and I get to give some attention to the abandoned animals and hopefully encourage their adoptions.

beagle in the snow

The pictures I take on these Fridays aren’t stunning. I don’t even put my watermark on them. The conditions are far from ideal and many of the animals are scared, full of pent-up energy, or are largely untrained from a life behind bars. I took it for granted that all the dogs would know how to sit, or that they would even recognize their name (or in the case of strays, the name the Humane Society staff assigns them). I assumed all the cats would be grateful for a little cuddling and play time before sitting patiently for a few photos.  

The truth is, I was completely naive. My first day at Harbor Humane was so rough and so unexpected that  I didn’t know if I would go back. I couldn’t even look at the dogs as I walked down the aisle of kennels. Their pleading eyes, frantic barks and lunging jumps at the kennel bars were breaking my heart. I don’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t this level of misery.

That’s not to disparage the efforts of the Harbor Humane staff. They work harder than anyone I know to keep the animals clean, fed, watered, healthy and regularly tended. But when you have more than 100 abandoned animals in one building, you need to prepare to have your emotions seriously wrenched.

I ended up going back the next Friday. And the next. Now, it’s something I look forward to each week. Every single visit brings a new challenge, but it also brings a larger sense of doing good. Many of the animals I’ve met there are former pets, well trained and primed to give affection to a human who will love them. Some are young and don’t know a life without bars, and they just need a patient and stable home. The animals that test the heart strings the most are the older pets, six or eight years old or more, who enjoyed a life at home until suddenly finding themselves in a cement cell or a small cage with no easy access to a backyard or a comfy bed.

As I continue working with the Humane Society, I’ll share the stories and photos of the animals I meet there. I am not a blind advocate for adoption–getting a “pre-loved” pet is not right for everyone. I myself have rescued two cats and purchased two puppies, and both options have their pros and cons. But if I can make a small difference in these animals’ lives–and give them a greater chance at a forever home–I’ll gladly swallow down the heart break and keep my Friday afternoon commitment.

Here are some of the recent pets I’ve met at Harbor Humane.

photocrati gallery



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Springer spaniels in a field of Michigan wildflowers

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