Tender Photographs Prove That Shelter Dogs Are the Best Dogs In “Finding Home”

Written by: Ellyn Kail

October 29, 2015

When Bingley the Pit Bull mix was brought to the Providence Animal Rescue League, the gentle giant was diagnosed as deaf; he had been seized from the scene of a drug bust, where the trauma of a gun fired close by had left him without his hearing. Bingley’s journey home was a long one; he remained unnoticed by potential adopters at the shelter, until he was taken in by a family and surrendered soon after following a bitter divorce. Bingley ultimately found his forever home in the arms of two of these volunteers, who after caring for him couldn’t bear to say goodbye one more time.

Finding Home: Shelter Dogs & Their Stories is photographer Traer Scott’s love letter to dogs like Bingley, who found a family to of their own, and an urgent appeal on behalf of those who wait still for a safe and loving place to call home. A follow-up to Scott’s 2006 Shelter Dogs, the book follows the lives of dogs of all shapes and sizes at four rescues: PARL, Handsome Dan’s Rescue, Fast Friends, and North Kingstown Animal Shelter. With all four, the photographer found compassionate people working their hardest to save the one million dogs who are euthanized in the United States each year, one dog at a time.

Many are Pit Bulls, as a staggering number of Pit Bull type dogs wind up homeless due to neglect and the unjust stigma surrounding the breed; others are Greyhounds, left without shelter after being retired from the race track or discarded after hunting season. Of the thirty-five individuals pictured in the book, four—Pygmalion, a fearful boy with chocolate fur, Remy the senior Chihuahua, Matilda the senior pit bull, and Salt, a tender-hearted girl who wasn’t able to tolerate the stress of shelter life—did not make it. All, stresses Scott, were given a chance, and all had people who loved them, even if that meant having someone to hold them as they passed away.

What motivates Scott and her fellow volunteers to do the work they do, and to allow themselves to fall in love all over again with every dog they meet, is the unique and unmatched joy that comes from seeing an animal like Bingley go home. It’s the kind of love that can come only from earning the trust of a terrified animal, and the happiness born of watching a once fearful dog take that brave step to accept a treat (or to sniff the camera). “A dog is cowering in the back of a kennel one day and then the next time you see it, it’s wiggling and happy and slobbering all over a volunteer,” says Scott of her experience with these extraordinary creatures.

There is no such thing, writes Bethany Nassef, Dog Coordinator at PARL, as a bad dog, and ultimately, Finding Home is an affirmation that for every homeless dog, there’s a person or a family out there waiting for a lifelong companion. For Heather Gutshall, Founder of Handsome Dan’s Rescue, it was Lady, a senior pit whom she fostered: “She […] remains ever present in my heart through each dog we save,” writes Gutshall for Finding Home.

For Scott herself, that dog was Cricket, a Border Collie/Chow mix to whom the photographer dedicates the book. “I still believe that she is the only creature who has ever loved me completely unconditionally,” the artist tells BarkPost of the simple dedication, which reads simply, “For my Cricket. I look for you in every dog I meet.”

The photographer has seen the bond between a dog and his or her special person time and again; she’s visited dogs in their new homes, watched them transition. Pet overpopulation is a devastating problem both in the states and worldwide, but Finding Home provides a glimmering beacon of hope, that with neutering, spaying, adoption, and new legislation, somewhere, sometime, each and every dog will at long last meet someone who believes in them, someone who will take them home for good. In the words of the artist herself, “love pretty much always wins with dogs.”

To help dogs in need, please consider adopting from or donating to Handsome Dan’s Rescue, Providence Animal Rescue League, Fast Friends, or the North Kingstown Animal Shelter. The author, along with Princeton Architectural Press, will donate a portion of all proceeds from the sale of Finding Home to Providence Animal Rescue League and Handsome Dan’s Rescue.

Buy the book here.

All images © Traer Scott

Written by: Ellyn Kail

October 29, 2015