The Portraitsphere : Shannon Johnstone’s Landfill Dogs

Ciara from Wake County Animal ShelterCiara from Wake County Animal Shelter

UPDATE 12/04/13: ABC News with Diane Sawyer aired a special segment tonight about Shannon Johnstone’s Landfill Dogs project! You can watch it here.

Well it’s been a while, but at long last it’s time to head out into the Portraitsphere! What makes this one especially wonderful is that we hit the TRIFECTA! We’re seeing some beautiful photography featuring very photogenic dogs, and the goal is to save their lives. Shannon Johnstone is a photographer in Raleigh, North Carolina and she’s in the middle of a remarkable project that will pretty much guarantee her own sainthood: since the end of 2012 she’s been visiting the Wake County Animal Shelter once a week and will continue to do so until early 2014, each time taking one dog in desperate need of finding a home out to the grassy landfill open space for a few hours. The dog gets a taste of freedom, of hope…of just maybe. She photographs them playing and panting and smiling, and they become a part of her project titled Landfill Dogs. Then they are posted to her Facebook page dedicated to the project, and so far 92% of them have found forever homes.

I chose the photos above to kick off this post, it’s the beautiful grinning girl Ciara and Shannon tells me that she “has the most need right now”. We know what that means. They say she’s a little star, the sweetest and cleanest of the bunch, top notch in maintaining her own kennel. She just wants love. And life. The following photos feature the other dogs that are still waiting for that special someone, and if you’d like more information on any (or all!) of them, you can contact the Wake County Animal Shelter here.

Roscoe from Wake County Animal Shelter

This guy’s name is Roscoe.

Karsten from Wake County Animal Shelter

Karsten is doing that model-tossing-the-head thing.

Greyson from Wake County Animal Shelter

Greyson is a cool cat.

Marcy from Wake County Animal Shelter

Marcy says she could get used to the good life!

Ringo from Wake County Animal Shelter

Ringo thinks he prefers the great outdoors.

I want to share Shannon’s statement here about her project:

“These are not just cute pictures of dogs. These are dogs who have been homeless for at least two weeks, and now face euthanasia if they do not find a home. Each week for 18 months (late 2012–early 2014) I bring one dog from the county animal shelter and photograph him/her at the local landfill.

The landfill site is used for two reasons. First, this is where the dogs will end up if they do not find a home. Their bodies will be buried deep in the landfill among our trash. These photographs offer the last opportunity for the dogs to find homes.

The second reason for the landfill location is because the county animal shelter falls under the same management as the landfill. This government structure reflects a societal value; homeless cats and dogs are just another waste stream. However, this landscape offers a metaphor of hope. It is a place of trash that has been transformed into a place of beauty. I hope the viewer also sees the beauty in these homeless, unloved creatures.

As part of this photographic process, each dog receives a car ride, a walk, treats, and about 2 hours of much needed individual attention. My goal is to offer an individual face to the souls that are lost because of animal overpopulation, and give these animals one last chance. This project will continue for one year, so that we can see the landscape change, but the constant stream of dogs remains the same.”

Now to wrap up our visit to the Portraitsphere, here are more photos of dogs taken by Shannon that did find that last chance because of her courage to face this harsh reality and make a huge difference. You can help by sharing this post on Facebook, or by following Shannon’s Landfill Dogs Facebook page directly here and sharing her weekly photographs with your friends.

From Landfill Dogs by Shannon JohnstoneFrom Landfill Dogs by Shannon JohnstoneFrom Landfill Dogs by Shannon JohnstoneFrom Landfill Dogs by Shannon JohnstoneFrom Landfill Dogs by Shannon JohnstoneFrom Landfill Dogs by Shannon Johnstone

Additional information on Shannon Johnstone and more of her work can be found on her website here.

All images used courtesy and copyright Shannon Johnstone.

Typographic Tuesday: Don Marquis

Don Marquis Quote

Today’s quote is just in time for this week’s Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show when the limelight is on all of the best purebred dogs. Now I’m not at all against purebred dogs (because ALL dogs make everything better), BUT I do think it’s very important to realize that for each perfect dog they show, there are a lot of sad stories left in the wake of the pursuit to get there (just like with the horse racing industry). My biggest beef is that in the case of the American Kennel Club, they’re turning a blind eye and lobbying big time against legislation to outlaw scummy breeders like puppy mills. And in my state, those places still exist. Boo. I read this article in the New York Times over the weekend, and my frustration with them was refreshed.

Now that I’m down off my soapbox, I’m going to sneak in a little bit more of the story here. What follows is the dog’s point of view, which he says after he overhears the boy referring to him in the words above:

“I am a middle-sized dog, with spots on me here and there, and several colours of hair mixed in even where there aren’t any spots, and my ears are frazzled a little on the ends where they have been chewed in fights. At first glance you might not pick me for an aristocrat. But I am one. I was considerably surprised when I discovered it, as nothing in my inmost feelings up to that time, nor in the treatment which I had received from dogs, humans or boys, had led me to suspect it.”

Rest in Peace, Ciccio

Ciccio when he was happy

Note: originally I posted this yesterday after I read that Ciccio had passed, but when I returned to Facebook I saw that it was denied again (there has been a lot of arguing over his custody as the story of Ciccio has swept across Italy, creating a tense situation of the strays in Brindisi). Sadly, now it is confirmed so I’m re-posting the story. The report I read is that he died peacefully due to cardiac arrest.

With a heavy heart, I have to share the sad news that Ciccio passed away today. If you read my earlier post a few weeks ago, you’ll remember he’s the dog in Italy who captivated the public by showing up at the church for Mass every day since his owner Maria Lochi passed last November. I am not sure of the exact cause of death, but recent posts on his Facebook page have discussed his deteriorating health with photos of him at the hospital. Given his age of 13, plus the fact that he was so broken hearted over the loss of Maria, they suspect he just wanted to go.

I added the top photo because it shows Ciccio when he was happy, you can see the sparkle in his eyes. This photo was taken when he was younger, and his owner Maria Lochi was alive. Compare it to this one that was taken after she passed away, and you can see his sadness.

Ciccio

Rest in peace, Ciccio.

Tournament of Roses (and Dogs) Parade 2013

Early Rose Parade with Dog

For as long as I can remember (but not quite as far back as this photo), southern California’s Tournament of Roses Parade has been a non-negotiable part of my New Years Day. For anyone unfamiliar with the parade, it is shown on television live from Pasadena. A very colorful display, it’s a welcome sight to people living in drab frozen places who want to see vibrant flowers while their own are covered in ice. The floats are strictly made out of real flowers and other vegetation, and they get pretty darn creative. Normally the weather is sunny and glorious in southern California (but not this year) and they often share a recently updated statistic about how many frozen people are lured to the Golden State after watching, ditching their snow shovels and hitting the road for t-shirt weather. The parade always includes the best marching bands from across the country (and increasingly around the world), people on horseback, a few celebrities, and of course some great dogs. A few from the LA Times:

Beagle on HGTV's Rose Parade float

Rose Parade Pup on Bike

This year’s Grand Marshall is the amazing Dr. Jane Goodall, and the theme is based on Dr. Seuss’s book, Oh the Places You’ll Go! Best Friends Los Angeles, part of the main Best Friends rescue group based in Utah, is aiming for their shelter to be a no-kill, and one of their dogs by the name of Chuck was chosen to walk alongside the carriage with Dr. Goodall to represent America’s homeless pets. Sweet. He did a great job. Here are two pictures of Chuck from the BFLA Facebook page, the second one being just before his television debut!

Chuck with BFLA's Marc Peralta and Jane Goodall

Another float sponsored by the Beverly Hills Pet Care Foundation was beautifully designed and executed, with giant flower-clad dogs and cats but also lots of real dogs held by volunteers. The announcers said that all of the pets on the float are available for adoption and you could connect with them at the end of the route. The star Jack Russell terrier Uggie from movies like The Artist was even onboard with his trainer (but I don’t think you could adopt him) as the official mascot of the float, because he’d also been given a second chance.

But the best part of this year’s parade brought together many wonderful things: dogs, our military service members, and reunions. A few minutes before the float arrived, a woman and her son were introduced as lucky winners of a contest for military families living in Germany, and she said that her husband was currently serving in Afghanistan. The prize included a trip to California plus tickets to the famous parade. Next arrived the Canines of Courage float, sponsored by the Natural Balance pet food company, to honor (big hooray!!) canines that serve our country alongside troops. This float was inspired by a monument that’s currently being built to these canine heroes in San Antonio. Various branches of the military were represented by members in their dress uniforms and dogs that have served including one sweetheart German Shepherd mix named Lucca, who had lost a leg to a land mine in Afghanistan. In addition to a representative soldier, there were 4 dogs also made of flowers to represent the four most common breeds that typically serve: Doberman Pinscher, Labrador Retriever, German Shepherd, and Belgian Malinois. Beautiful. Below are some photos of the float during its construction and in the parade, and also the happy girl Lucca, to whom we owe a great debt.

Canines with Courage Float

Last but definitely not least, the contest winner and her son were pulled from the crowd to be reunited with one other rider on the float, her husband in his army fatigues. I jumped off my treadmill, not very gracefully, to make this video. It’s really wonderful, even the parade announcers were choked up. And, one last thing I noticed: this military family’s last name is Pazz, and it’s pronounced like “paws”. How cool is that?

Happy New Year everyone!

Article on the Canines of Courage float from the Los Angeles Times here.
If you’d like to watch the whole parade, KTLA’s website has it here.

Animal Blueprint Company

Animal Blueprint Company Mutt

In keeping with my last architecture-themed post I wanted to share this. A few years back I saw a mention for these great dog blueprints from the Animal Blueprint Company in a home decor magazine (Elle Decor? The now defunct Met Home? Who knows!). As they are described on their website: “a distressed finish gives this animal art print the feel of working blueprints used by architects, engineers and construction supervisors of the mid 20th century.” Cool.

I think they’re really great, and of course what caught my eye was that they featured one from the Mutt Series of 20 (hooray for mutts!). Each print includes a drawing of a dog with some call-outs highlighted, then a breakdown of history and attributes under “Construction Notes”, such as:
Breed: American Mutt
Origin: Local Shelter, Friend or Neighbor
History: Rescued by those who care! While a mutt does not come with a breeder’s certificate, they are known to demonstrate all the best traits of their various breeds, making the whole greater than the sum of its parts.
The great American family dog. Mother may have been a bit of a lady, father a bit of a tramp. Perhaps part Shepherd, Collie, Retriever, Spaniel, Husky or none of these, no one knows for sure. The love of a rescued dog is without boundaries and touches all those in its reach, often transforming the rescuee into the rescuer…

The text goes on to describe attributes such as coat, color, height and weight…of course without really being able to provide any definitive information at all! And isn’t that also a reason why mutts are so awesome? I’m guessing these Animal Blueprint Company folks have a sense of humor, stamping each print with “Canine Architect: I.M. Paws” (I.M. Pei, haha). Okay.

They also have tons of purebred dog blueprints with factual information, here are a few of them. Oh, and there are cat breeds and a few horses available, too.

Animal Blueprint Company Alaskan Malamute

Yorkshire Terrier by Animal Blueprint Company

You can order their prints framed or just matted, and I just saw that if you order by TODAY (December 17) you can still give one for Christmas this year. Maybe this idea will be perfect for that tricky someone on your list, or even yourself.

Click here for the Animal Blueprint Company website.

PS: I should probably add here that products and books that I feature on my blog are just things that I like, not revenue-generators. And when it’s a designer (like me) being an entrepreneur (like me) AND I like what they’re creating, it’s definitely the trifecta!

Operation Animal Airlift

Plane, puppy and palms

This past weekend in California, a major undertaking took place: the airlift of hundreds of dogs from overcrowded shelters in Los Angeles to the Pacific Northwest where there’s apparently a shortage of adoptable dogs (nice to hear that’s the case in a few places). The group that’s in the pilot’s seat, so to speak, is Wings of Rescue, a volunteer network of kind-hearted folks that are dedicated to flying adoptable dogs from point A to point B. According to the spokeswoman in the interview, they’ve saved 5000 dogs in the last 18 months alone!

“Dogs going to Olympia, Washington!” “All of those going to Hillsborough!” The video from NBC Nightly News is a flurry of activity: shouted destinations, happy goodbyes, crates being loaded, happy volunteers working like Santa’s elves, and also a lot of twinkling doggy eyes as they get ready to take off.

This story appeals to me for a few reasons: saving dogs of course, but also the southern California connection (because that’s where I’m from) and aviation’s role (my family tree is full of aircraft-related careers). It’s definitely one of those feel-good stories that just makes you applaud humanity. For me, it’s a well-rounded gush of love, pride and gratitude.

Volunteers, dogs and planes

The story mentions specifically the case of Sedona, shown below, who was saved on the day she was scheduled to be euthanized at a shelter. Instead, she’s greeted by her new owner in Oregon who says the perfect thing: “This is like Christmas morning!” I’ve watched the video about 10 times now and that’s where the lump-in-the-throat hits.

Sedona closeup and boarding flight

Sedona arrives in Oregon

If you’d like to watch the video, please do so! You can find it here. It’s really worth it, and they have a nice segue to the piece by showing the Obama’s 2012 Christmas card featuring their dog Bo at the White House in the snow. The idyllic image serves as a great reminder that the only thing that separates dogs languishing in shelters from dogs in loving homes is action. Happy holidays, Wings of Rescue!

If you’d like to volunteer or donate to Wings of Rescue, you can find the information here.

All images from NBC Nightly News segment

For the Love of the Dog

Farley Comic Strip by Phil Frank

Yes they do! And it looks like they shop a lot.

In the spring of 2011 the results of the first-ever National Mutt Census revealed that mutts accounted for more than half (53%) of all pet dogs in American households. In addition, the American Pet Products Association reports that annual spending on pets has steadily increased every year, with the 2011 numbers reaching almost 51 billion dollars. That’s pretty interesting since the economy has been in bad shape for some time now and there have been a lot of cases with people having to give up their pets. But more often for those who are able to keep them, they are cutting back on buying things for themselves in order to continue providing for their dogs. These numbers also serve to validate some current trends here in the US: people are having fewer children, the retiring baby boomers and empty nesters are lavishing affection on their companions, and also people are devoting more resources to better nutrition and care for their dogs overall.

The National Mutt Census results are very interesting and provide a lot of good information. Their website includes an interactive map and you can click on your state to find out all sorts of factoids such as popular breeds, adoption statistics, dogs per household, etc. The census was conducted by a company that provides dog DNA testing, owned by a parent company that also makes Pedigree brand dog food so there were solid marketing reasons for them to do the census. Which is why, I suppose, Pedigree has had a campaign for putting the spotlight on shelter dogs and rescues, because that’s where the money’s heading. This leads me to a little dirty detail: the Westminster Kennel Club nixed Pedigree as a sponsor for their event earlier this year, because this support of the mixed breed shelter dog is threatening to their glitz. On behalf of America’s canine melting pot, I’d like to ask the Westminster Kennel Club: instead of focusing only on “the love of the breed”, shouldn’t your bigger goal be “the love of the dog”?

Check out your state in the National Mutt Census here.
Watch the excellent national television spot, with a kleenex, for Pedigree’s initiative to save shelter dogs here.
For more information on Pedigree’s adoption initiative, click here.
Farley cartoon, copyright Phil Frank.