Hi there! I'm Mindy and I'm so glad you decided to stop by today! As a natural light photographer I consider myself incredibly blessed to be able to use my love of photography to capture moments in time for my fantastic clients.

As a mama to two young children, my family comes first and as such, I am only scheduling a limited number of sessions each month so please book early to make sure you get on my calendar! If you have any questions or would like to book a session please email me at info@mindynewtonphotography.com or give me a call 209-304-7025.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

10/52 - Project 52 {A Deviation and PSA}

**Warning:  This post may be difficult for some to read.  I do not desire to offend or upset anyone, this is just something that has been on my heart a lot lately and I felt now was the time to share.**

 Under this lovely tree, beyond this fence, is the EXACT place where nearly half a million animals have been euthanized over the last 40 years.

Just weeks ago in this same spot stood the room where dogs, cats and other animals were put to death, often called the "Euth Room".  Twenty feet to the left of here stood the building know as the "Freezer" where the lifeless bodies were hauled on rolling carts, dumped and stored until taken away for final disposal.

Thousands of animals have passed through these gates, never to come out again.  Some were loved during their time here by volunteers and some staff, others went to their death without knowing a kind human touch.

He was one of the lucky ones...

 They were not...

We adopted our first dog, Callie in October of 2002 from the local county animal shelter.  In February of 2003, after driving past the shelter numerous times a week, I began to volunteer as a "dog walker", which eventually turned into a position of anything and everything that needed to be done for the dogs and once I was able to borrow a donated digital camera (back in ancient camera days of 2004-2005) I began taking dog photos as well and posting them along with descriptions to try and help find homes for them.  

I was passionate about the dogs, the shelter and PC (Pre-Children) I could be found at the shelter every Wednesday evening after work, the first Sunday of the month and most Saturdays.  At that early time I was only one of a handful of committed dog walkers and I was obsessed with making sure every Wednesday night that we got EVERY adoptable dog out for a walk (no matter how short) and a little bit of loving because it was probably one of the only times they got out all week.  

I understood the realities of the shelter environment, Too Many Animals + Too Few Homes/Responsible Owners = Euthanizing Animals.  Despite my understanding of these realities, I was still rocked each time I went into Sick Bay and saw starving dogs, dogs ravaged from a dog fight, dogs whose poor bodies were riddled with cancer, pregnant momma dogs and their pups who'd been abandoned, dogs with collars imbedded in their necks because the owner never paid attention (or cared), dogs suffering from skin disorders, flea bitten, neglected beyond belief.  Dogs who had lived wonderful long lives, loved by terrific owners and then one day found themselves dumped in this cold, harsh environment because their owner died and there was nobody who chose to continue caring for them.  In more recent years it was the dogs who had owners who loved them, but due to foreclosures and the economic downturn, could no longer find a home where they could have a pet or had to move out-of-state and decided not to take their pet along. 

I remember Miss Ruby, she was such a doll, sweet as could be, mellow, easy-going.  I believe she may have been one of those I described above that entered the shelter as a result of her owner passing away.  But not many people want mellow, older dogs do they?  

No, most people want those adorable little puppies, they feel they can "train them right".  Sadly many of those puppies return to the shelter a year or so later, surrendered or abandoned when they aren't so cute anymore and their owner says they "are out of control" thanks to being dumped in a backyard all day and not receiving the training and attention that was initially expected.

Miss Peaches was one that I remember naming.  She had a beautiful golden peach coat and glowing smile so when I took her out that first time the name Miss Peaches stuck (my cousins also called their bunny this).  Another sweet, easy-going, affectionate, playful dog, but she was a Pit Bull (actually a Staffordshire Terrier) and all Pit Bulls are vicious right?  *Please pick up my sarcasm*  

I had never encountered a Pit Bull that I'm aware of before volunteering, but at a shelter, there are a HUGE variety of dogs from unique, pure-blooded, papered dogs, to paperless purebreds of many desired breeds, to the incredible mixture of plain "mutts".  Many of these dogs are incorrectly labeled "Pit Bull" if they have any type of blocky head or muscular body.  "Pit Bull" is actually not a breed, it's a label used to describe dogs with similar traits and characteristics known by the public as pit bulls, but it actually encompasses American Pit Bull Terriers, Staffordshire Terriers and Staffordshire Bull Terriers.  Regardless, the popular myths about Pit Bulls have been completely nullified to me as after 6 years of being an active volunteer - "Pit Bulls" have become my most favorite breed thanks to their tremendously loving, affectionate, playful and devoted personalities.  For more great information on pit bulls check out here, some interesting history and pitbull heroes , and did you know that the American Pit Bull Terrier rates higher than the Golden Retriever in temperament by the American Temperament Test Society?

It was under these two trees seen here one Wednesday evening that a volunteer and I photographed and cuddled with 5 new "Pit Bulls" and added their photos and descriptions to our website under "Adoptable Dogs".  One in particular, a GORGEOUS blue and white pitbull we named "Freedom" really captured my heart.  

The next day as I walked the aisles of the shelter I found out that only an hour after the shelter closed and we went home to work on creating appropriate and fabulous descriptions for these dogs, a shelter supervisor went through and pulled these five dogs and had them euthanized because there were just "too many pits" on the floor.  As if they were just overstocked items on the retail shelf to be scrapped, these dogs died as we were posting them on our website that night.  Was it difficult for me to go back to the shelter after this?  Yes.  Was I angry?  Oh yes.  Did I go back?  Most definitely,  because even though they were killed that night, at least they had 15-20 minutes of love and attention given to them by us and how could I let my anger at the circumstances of pet overpopulation and shelter realities rob other dogs of receiving the slightest bit of love that I could offer?

Our dog Ben (pictured above) is an American Staffordshire Terrier (and probably something else) and after being at the shelter for over a month and a half (he came in at about 8 months old), my husband came to visit me one Sunday and asked if we could take that "striped one" out to play.  After only minutes with "Rocky" (his shelter given name) he earned the new name of "Gentle Ben" because he was so gentle and would let us do anything to him.  Not intending on a second dog, I knew if we cared about this dog we needed to act fast because that Sunday could have been his last day.  What a great decision we made as Ben completed our family perfectly - well that is until we had our children. :)

Our county built and opened a fantastic new animal shelter last Fall and the pictures above show where the original, 40 year old shelter stood, as it was demolished a few weeks ago.   We drive past this a couple of times a week and I felt I wanted to document this tiny part of history.

Thank you for reading this LONG post, if you've gotten through it, I just want to encourage you to:  1) spay/neuter your pets, 2) have your pets microchipped so you can find them easier if ever they get lost, 3) volunteer at your local animal shelter if you have a love for animals - you'll be amazed how much you can bless the animals and shelter workers when you come in with a positive attitude, and 4) adopt from an animal shelter if you're considering a new addition to the family!  Save a life - and you will be blessed for it!

Also - as a volunteer I witnessed many HAPPY endings as well, as pets were reunited with owners months, even years later and new adopters fell head-over-heels in love with their new pets.

Now as a busy mom of two youngsters, my "free time" is not as frequent and I'm saddened not to be very active as a volunteer anymore, but I do hope to return to my more active status one day and make a difference once again.  

And so as not to leave you sad, I hope this happy face will cheer your heart as it always does mine!  It is this face and his sister's that are my passion now and boy do I love it!


Shannon Joy said...

Very sad. You have such a wonderful heart, Mindy.

Megan said...

Sad, but lovely post. Every time we have visited a shelter in the past my heart has been heavy for so many of the sweet doggy faces that wouldn't find a home. I'm so glad that there are people like you who take time out of their lives to enrich moments of the unfortunate one's last days.

Lisa Smiley said...

Thanks for sharing your heart and such a great need. My mom in law just adopted a dog last week from a shelter and my boys are thrilled to go visit. We so want a dog!

MomBrose said...

I share your heart for animals (and an equal loathe for those that hurt them). I look at our sweet little Sophie (our rescue) and wonder how in the world ANYONE could be cruel to her.
Thank you for taking the time to write this. Painful yes. But also necessary.

Mindy said...

Thank you gals for taking the time to read this post which weighed heavy on my heart. MomBrose - I didn't know Sophie was a rescue but I'm so glad you took her in and are loving her so well!

Courtney said...

I am holding back the tears! We have two dogs, Charlie and Gus. Both are from shelters in MS. We picked Charlie out but had to wait a couple of days to get her due to getting a house. When we went to get her it was Tuesday and the lady thought they had euthanized her already. Luckily, the day before when we were in requesting to put a reserved sign on her but they actually put a "do not euthanize sign" on her instead. Thanks the Lord! We love both are dogs and have done 3 of the 4 recommendations (don't have the time to volunteer at the moment). Thanks for this post!! I will give my puppies a little extra loving tonight :O)

Mindy said...

Courtney - that must have been so scary thinking Charlie had been euthanized! So glad you were able to rescue your pups!

KatieW said...

Wow- thanks for the reminder about shelters. Thank you for volunteering and bringing love to those sweet animals.

Mindy said...

KatieW - thanks for stopping by!