Tag Archives: New Jersey Pet Photography

Remembering Angelo – Twice a Victim of Animal Abuse

Remembering Angelo - Twice a Victim of Animal Abuse


This is not a happy blog post.  Last week a friend posted on Facebook a tribute to Angelo, a dog I once met who suffered a horrible injustice.  He was twice a victim of animal abuse – once by his owners and then again by a callous judicial process.  My friend’s reflections stirred up my own memories.

For the last couple of years I have volunteered in local animal shelters to produce high quality pictures that will catch the attention of potential adopters and, ideally, lure them to come and visit the shelter.  There are a lot of happy endings (beginnings, actually) at my local shelters.  Sadly, though, there are also plenty of heart wrenching stories.  Angelo’s is probably the most heart wrenching of them all.

In October 2011 I was asked by Dottie Reynolds, president of the Friends of Southern Ocean County Animal Shelter (FOSOCAS), to photograph Angelo.  Dottie wanted to use the photographs to bring attention to the tragedy that Angelo was enduring.  The two hours I sat with this beautiful dog is something I will never, ever forget.

Here’s the short version.  Angelo and several siblings were seized by the SPCA when their owners were charged with animal cruelty.  The allegations were that the dogs had been neglected and abused, and there may have been fighting involved.  Classic animal abuse.  Per a court order the dogs were quarantined at the local animal shelter.  They were not allowed to have contact with each other, with other dogs, or with humans other than shelter staff.  Their incarceration lasted for months.  Eventually permission was granted to allow the dogs to spend less than an hour a day in outside runs.  They still couldn’t interact with people or each other.  They could feel the sunlight and smell the air.  For an hour.  And then were returned to their 6×10 cages for the remaining 23 hours each day.

When Angelo entered the shelter he was scared and timid.  He showed some aggression.  Given his experience of abuse that was not a surprise.  Over time he began to show positive signs.  He became less fearful.  He was curious, even excited, to see humans.  He became particularly attached to a volunteer named Lisa who brought him treats and toys.  There was hope that Angelo might have a good outcome.

But the court case dragged on.  And on.  And on.  Days turned to weeks which turned to months.  In October, a full three months since he was taken into custody, Angelo began to show signs that the stress of his environment was taking its toll.  His behavior changed dramatically and worsened everyday.  His interest in toys disappeared.  He began biting the fencing of his cage.  Looking into his eyes it was clear he was losing his mind.  And yet the court case dragged on.  Angelo was slipping away, and there was nothing anyone could do about it.

When Dottie called she asked me to photograph Angelo in a way that would illustrate his suffering.  Before I sat with him I had ideas about how to do that.  Images that show the sterile conditions of a shelter.  Gray, cold light that conveys isolation and loneliness.  And so on.  As soon as I sat on the floor outside Angelo’s cage I knew I didn’t have to do anything to highlight his condition.  I just had to show Angelo.  The look in his eyes was one of horror.  His soul was in a constant state of torture.  He was trapped in his cage and trapped in his mind.  He would chew on the fencing until his mouth bled.  He would paw at the door as a sad plea to be released.  Then he would turn away, deliberately facing in the other direction and stare into space.  His behavior was not aggressive.  It was desperate.  I had seen plenty of dogs who were stressed by being in the shelter, but I had never seen anything like Angelo.  His confinement had made him insane.  He was a tortured soul.

Less than two weeks after these photos were taken Angelo was euthanized.  A part of me felt relief for him, and imagined his soul taking a deep sigh as he passed.  He was finally free of the torture.  And a big part of me felt rage.  Rage toward the humans who put Angelo in this situation.  Rage toward the system that callously ignored the fact that a life was suffering in a cage because “the wheels of justice” only go so fast.  And another part of me felt a deep sadness.  I still feel it.  I have tears in my eyes as I type.  This tragedy didn’t have to happen.  Angelo didn’t have to suffer.  It wasn’t his fault.

As I write I’m realizing that I’m doing so to deal with the rage and sadness.  It hasn’t gone away.  I haven’t been able to compartmentalize it like I often can.  Angelo lives somewhere in my spirit.  His horror and unnecessary death stand as a reminder that we have so much work to do to make the world a better place for our animals.  If Angelo’s story and images speak to you I hope you’ll allow him to live in your spirit as well.  And that you’ll honor that place he holds by joining the forces of good for animals.  Take action against animal cruelty.  Encourage your government leaders to strengthen laws against abuse.  Volunteer at a local shelter or rescue.  Donate money or resources to organizations working in support of saving animals.  Do something.  Do anything.  It won’t bring Angelo and the millions like him back, but it will help move us closer to a day when there are no more Angelos who have to endure animal abuse.  That will make the world a better place.


GoGo’s Glam Shots

I love dogs.  Each one is unique, if not in appearance then certainly in personality.  My session with GoGo reminded me just how unique some dogs are in appearance!

GoGo is a Chinese Crested mix.  And though I had seen the breed on TV and in dog shows, I had never met one in person.  GoGo is a sweet soul, rescued from Tennessee by her humans Marie and Jimmy.  She visited on a snowy day and was – necessarily – wrapped up in her winter coat.  When she came inside and was able to to take off her jacket it was interesting to feel her lack of coat.  I am so used to petting a dogs fur that at first it felt odd to pet skin.  But GoGo liked it just the same!  She was gentle and sweet and a great model.  Part of her natural style includes a Mohawk hairstyle which we used to our advantage in a few shots.  GoGo brought her own wardrobe, too.  I especially liked the pillbox hat!  Marie was kind enough to sit in front of the camera as well, and they looked terrific together.  Here are a few shots from our session.

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Herding Cats: Fred, Ginger and Sidney

Last month I met Fred, Ginger and Sidney.  Their humans, Dan and Jenna, really love them and hired me to make classic portraits they could frame and hang prominently on their wall.  Fred was exceptionally excited about the idea.  Ginger and Sidney had other ideas.  But we worked it out, thanks to the infinite patience of Jenna and Dan as they wrangled the girls.  A little creative thinking didn’t hurt either: rather than bring the cats to the light, we brought the light up to the cats.  Hence, the “Top o’ the Staircase” shot.  Many thanks to Dan and Jenna for their hard work and patience!

Gibson, Nova and Snowy

Three Dogs and Four Ferrets

I had the pleasure of working with Jenn and Keith to photograph their menagerie – three dogs and four ferrets.  Yes, ferrets.

I had never worked with ferrets before, and when Jenn set up the session she asked if I was willing to give it a try.  Always up for a challenge I told her to bring them along.  The dogs, Gibson, Snowy and Nova, were all great models, and we captured some nice shots of each.  Gibson was jumping for joy and it was fun to capture him in mid air.  Snowy has mastered his begging skills.  And Nova offered gremlin noises as feedback on the situation.

Then it was ferret time.  Keith placed Smokey on the table and I wondered what would happen.  Smokey wandered about and explored the four corners of the table, seemingly looking for an escape route over the side.  Keith thwarted the escape and held Smokey by the scruff of the neck which, apparently, settles a ferret down.  It seemed to work as Smokey let out a huge yawn within seconds.  And he posed like a pro.  We repeated the process with his three ferret brothers, and it was interesting to see how each one had his own personality and interests.  One was very interested in a squeak toy, another in the sound of rustling plastic.  Keith did a great job of wrangling, and in no time we had a card full of nice portraits.

In my website bio I joke about photographing lemurs.  After this I think I am slightly more qualified to do that.  Thanks to Jenn and Keith for a great session!

Favorite Holiday Pet Photos 2012

This year I shot far more holiday pet photos than ever before.  Between early December and Christmas I shot almost 70 different animals of different shapes, sizes and even species (there was one cat!).   I was fortunate to partner with Lucky’s Bed & Biscuit who generated a ton of interest and filled three days of shoots.  I returned to Camp Bow Wow for the fifth year to offer a day of portraits there.  And I enjoyed the opportunity to work with several private clients, visiting their homes and welcoming them to my basement studio.  It was fun to meet the different models and work with them to draw out their personalities – or, in some cases, tone down their enthusiasm! – to make a great holiday portrait.  Below are some of my favorite shots from the season.  Many thanks to everyone who brought their pets in front of my lens.  I appreciate your business and hope to work with you again in the future.

The “20 for 20” Pet Photo Event with Endless Pawsibilities

On Saturday, November 10 I partnered with my friends at Endless Pawsibilities to present the “20 for 20 Pet Photo Day”.  We offered a 20 minute photo session in exchange for a $20 donation or 20 pounds of dog or cat food, all of which would support the Volunteer Auxiliary for Animal Shelters, Inc.  We were delighted that people signed up quickly, and within a day or so of announcing the event all of the 20 minute slots were full.  We were even more pleased that when people came for their session they were extremely generous with their support.  Many people made a cash donation AND brought food, blankets, crates and other items.  In the end we delivered a nice donation and enough food and materials to fill two cars to the Volunteer Auxiliary.  It was a very successful day!

Many thanks to Tori, Karen and the great team from Endless Pawsibilities.  And a special thanks to the kind humans and their beautiful dogs for making the day a success.

Here are a few of my favorite shots from the day.

Catching up…Furfest at Southern Ocean County Animal Facility

It’s been a long two weeks.  I hardly believe that it’s only been two weeks.  And I’m one of the lucky ones.  Aside from 10 days without power I came through the Superstorm Sandy unscathed.  My heart and prayers go out to the many families who have been devastated by Sandy and who continue to suffer.

The Saturday before the storm the Friends of Southern Ocean County Animal Facility held their Furfest.  We were pleasantly surprised by how many people took time away from their storm preparations to have some fun with their dogs.  The costume parade was a trip – dozens of dogs dressed up as everything from a cave man to a thoroughbred horse to – my favorite – a Dachshund dressed as a hot dog.  It was terrific.  Inside I offered a quick photo session for a donation to the Friends group, and I am proud to have raised over $200 in just two hours.  As always, I had some great models to work with.  Here are a few of my favorites.

Working with the Harness Lead Spokesdogs

I’ve had a busy week in the studio creating photographs for a great new product called Harness Lead.


When I started volunteering at the Southern Ocean County Animal Facility (SOCAF) the first person I met was Lisa Flynn.  Lisa was the Volunteer Coordinator and, in spite of having a full-time job, devoted three or four hours each day, seven days a week to walking and caring for the homeless dogs at SOCAF.  The first time I saw her in action I knew right away that she had a deep love for the animals and the animals knew it.  As she walked the line of cages the dogs would come to their doors and smile and whimper and bark for Lisa’s attention.  It was like watching the Pope walk through a crowd!  Lisa “got” the dogs and they “got” her.

In the summer of 2011 Lisa arrived at SOCAF early one morning full of excitement to show her new creation.  She pulled a few of us together and explained the she had made a new leash that would be perfect for the shelter.  It was one piece of line that formed a body harness around the dog’s chest.  The lead gave the walker more control than a neck collar and leash and, most importantly to Lisa, it was more comfortable for the dogs.  Her creation was perfect for the shelter because it was a one-size-fits-all solution.  And best of all, the unique configuration of the lead put gentle pressure on the dog’s chest when he or she pulled and, thus, helped the animal pull less.  We were excited and amazed.  Lisa had turned a simple piece of rope into a great tool for the shelter.

Gracie in Pink

Fast forward to summer of 2012 and Lisa’s piece of rope has become the Harness Lead, and her product is selling like wildfire.  Everyone who tries it is amazed by how well it works, particularly with dogs who have a tendency to pull.  Lisa is hearing from people all over the country that the Harness Lead is making dog walking a lot more enjoyable.

As the product is taking off so is the need to expand the marketing and sales pieces associated with it.  Website, store tags, product instructions, etc. all need to be created or upgraded.  Lisa hired me to help her do that, and our first step was to have a few dogs come into the studio to be “Spokesdogs” for Harness Lead.  This week I had six models in front of the camera, each wearing a different color.  We also photographed close-ups of the Harness Lead being rigged on a dog to illustrate the use on an instruction tag.  The dogs were all very patient with me and did great on set, and their humans were fun to work with.

On Friday Louise Denecke and her boy Baloo (aka The Lanther) were kind enough to come by for a session.  If you’re not familiar with The Lanther, you should be.  His stunning good looks and sharp wit have helped him develop quite the following on social media.  He has more Twitter followers than most humans I know!  Louise rescued Baloo from Popcorn Park about a year ago after Baloo had been a resident for far too long, and Baloo has truly blossomed into an amazing boy.  After we photographed the requisite poses for product tags and website use we got a little more creative.  Louise and Baloo brought costumes and wigs and all sorts of options for fun photos.  At the end of the day we took a ride down the street and set up my cool new Elinchrom Quadra light in a big softbox and created what could be my favorite photograph of this year.  Louise donned a formal gown, long white gloves, and her grandmother’s wrap and we shot a formal portrait as the daylight faded.  Many thanks to Louise and The Lanther for working so hard and being so creative and patient!

Louise and Baloo – “The Calm Before the Storm”

Petoberfest Portraits

Last Saturday we set up shop at Petoberfest, a fund raising event to benefit the Volunteer Auxiliary for Animal Shelters, Inc.  The Volunteer Auxiliary is a code name for the hard working group of volunteers who visit Northern Ocean County Animal Facility every day of the week, in sun, rain, sleet or snow, and walk the dogs, play with the cats, network the available animals on Petfinder, and travel around in their magic bus with adoptable pets.  They do amazing work and make the difference between life and death for countless innocent animals every year.

Petoberfest was their first fall fund raiser, and Kate and I were happy to be a part of it.  We set up our portable studio and photographed nearly 20 dogs.  And a first for us – rabbits!  We had a lot of fun and were proud to raise a couple of hundred dollars for the Volunteer Auxiliary.  Here are some of our shots from the day.

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