By Katherine Spink, PAWS Staff

As we celebrate Thanksgiving, we're thankful for all the wonderful people who visit PAWS with adoption in mind, and give our adorable adoptables a second chance at life—including Steph, who came into Summer's life in September 2013. 

What made you decide to adopt from a shelter?
My family always got our pets from shelters so, from a very young age, I learned the importance of adopting animals in need rather than buying them from breeders.

Summer 2

How did you first find out about Summer?
I found her on the PAWS website. I loved her description and thought she'd be a perfect fit for me.

Summer was the name she came with and it seems to fit her so well. She answers to her name and even comes when we call her.

What was it that most attracted you to her?
I first fell in love with her look. She's a largish girl, half fluff, with a very pretty coat and face. Summer also has the personality I wanted in a cat; mellow, people loving, cuddle bug, and talkative.

The way she was described online was fairly spot on, which was very helpful to me in choosing between the options I had.

How was your adoption experience with PAWS?
A member of staff had had a lot of one on one time with Summer so I was able to chat with her to get more info about the kitty I was taking home.

Her previous owner had also filled out a long survey detailing a lot of information about her, so I was able to learn a lot about her that I couldn't see while she was in the shelter.

The meet and greet rooms were nice for getting a little time with the cats one on one. Checking out the colony rooms was fun too.

Briefly tell us about your first journey home and how the “settling in” period went. 
Summer was in her little cardboard kitty box and was very quiet. She would put her little paw out of one of the holes to reach out and touch me in the car. When I got home I had my bathroom all set up for her to spend her first few days settling in. I opened up the box and she started to purr, and gave me a dainty little mew.

Summer hung out in a hooded cat bed for a bit. Since she was so relaxed I decided to open the door and let her explore if she wanted. It wasn't long before she cuddled with me on the couch, then flopped on the floor on her back with her white tummy all exposed. It certainly didn't take long for her to get comfortable!

What have you experienced together since Summer became a part of your family?
We actually moved across the country together this summer, as I got into graduate school in North Carolina.

Summer 3

Five days in the car may have been rough with any other pet, but Summer did it like a champ! It took until day 3 for her to decide she was done with it and start yelling at us to go home (see picture below)!

 

I've also discovered she's not a very good huntress. I told her that since the new apartment had a pet rent of $10 each month she would need to kill some of the bugs we were finding in the house. The south is full of bugs.

Well, she tried, but she prefers to find the bug and cry while sitting next to it until I come over and squish it.

How has Summer changed your life?
She's given me a greater appreciation for older cats. When I was choosing between her and other potential cats, several people told me it was foolish to get an older pet as I wouldn't have as much time with her as I would a younger pet.

If I'd listened to them, I wouldn't have gotten Summer and that would have been a shame. She is perfect for me and brings me so much joy.

Any Thanksgiving plans?
If she has her way, Summer will be eating all of the turkey!

Thanks for sharing your story Steph, and for being Summer's animal hero! 

Find your Summer todayadopt.
Donate now and help us continue providing a safe place for companion animals in need.


By Jen Mannas, PAWS Naturalist

The end of October marked the release of some special spring patients from PAWS Wildlife Center. Five River Otters, who staff had been caring for since May, were finally old enough to fend for themselves and survive on their own in the wild.

When they came to us back in the spring they weighed two pounds and were only a few weeks old. Three of them were siblings whose mother had been killed by a trapper and the other two were found orphaned and alone.

River-Otter-Blog-Image-1-KS

The five pups were introduced to each other and housed together where they played and romped around like wild River Otter babies should. They were given enrichment items and experiences to stimulate natural feeding behaviors, a large pool to swim and dive in, and they were monitored remotely by our rehabilitators to ensure they were growing, behaving and socializing normally.

River-Otter-Blog-Image-2-KS
And that they were!

By the end of August their behavior and size demanded that we needed to split them up into two groups. This gave them more room to romp and ensured they did not become food aggressive with each other. The three siblings were kept together and the other two were moved to another enclosure where they awaited release.

River-Otter-Blog-Image-3-KS

By mid-October it was apparent that these, once little, otter pups had grown into sleek sub-adults and were ready to face the wild on their own.

PAWS collaborated with the King County Parks Department to research and choose very suitable release sites for both groups. The group of two otters was released on October 20, and the three siblings were released on October 28.

River-Otter-Blog-Image-4-KS

Seeing these otters experience Puget Sound for the first time was quite an event. Staff and volunteers looked on as they explored their new home; sniffing and feeling the rocks, rolling in the incoming waves and running along the beach in unison. They were obviously excited to be released into their natural habitat.

We wish them luck and were so happy to see them back in the wild where they belong.

Make a donation and help us continue providing a safe haven for recovering wildlife at PAWS.
Found a wild animal? Find out what to do and how PAWS can help.


By Jen Mannas, PAWS Naturalist

The beginning of November marks one of the biggest releases of the year at PAWS Wildlife Center, our Black-tailed deer release.

This year we cared for five deer throughout the spring and summer who all came to us in May as spotted fawns (pictured below, with ear tags used to identify individuals). These youngsters were all assumed to be orphaned as some were seen alone for more than 24 hours and others were found standing near their deceased mother or sibling.

Black-tail-Deer-070414-JM-(17)-KS-web-resize

Columbian Black-tailed deer are classified as a subspecies of the mule deer; their range is from southern Canada to central California and are found along the Pacific coast east to the Cascades.

They are the most common deer subspecies in Washington and are very similar in appearance to Rocky Mountain mule deer. However, black-tailed deer are smaller and have a broader tail that is completely covered with black hairs.

They are very adaptable and can live in a variety of habitats. Their main food source is browse (the growing tips of trees and shrubs) but they also eat fruit, nuts, acorns, fungi, and lichens.

Black-tailed deer are even adaptable in how they evade predators and have evolved several tactics in addition to hiding.

Their large ears and excellent vision help them detect danger from up to 1800 feet away. They will either leave the area before the predator gets too close or try to outmaneuver it. They do so by effectively using characteristics of the terrain such as boulders, steep slopes, ledges, trees, and deadfall to place obstacles between them and their predator.

They will also erratically change direction when being perused and they may even release a scent that alarms others triggering a group formation for protection.

Black-tail-Deer-Release-11062014-JM-KS-web-resize

Black-tailed deer breed during the fall and give birth in mid to late spring. During their first few weeks of life the fawns will be left alone for extended periods of time while their mother forages.

While alone the fawns lay flat and motionless, in a bed of grass, and their white spots camouflage them from predators. As they become stronger they feed alongside mom and are no longer dependent on her by the end of the summer.

While the deer are at PAWS our rehabilitators work very hard to raise them so that they don't become habituated. They do so by limiting all human contact to a minimum.

They have a specialized way to feed the deer formula, they spend many hours throughout the summer collecting and delivering browse, and making sure their enclosure is cleaned without direct contact with the fawns.

This takes a lot of hard work and seeing the deer released is a very meaningful event.

On November 6th the five deer they'd cared for all summer were released on large tracts of land far from people.

Our staff and volunteers looked on as the deer explored their new habitat and made their way deeper into the forest.

Found a wild animal? Find out what to do and how PAWS can help.


By Caitlin Soden, Wildlife Volunteer Program Manager

It’s a pleasure to feature Jodi Gaylord this month! Jodi started volunteering for PAWS just three months ago but she dived right in and quickly became a vital part of the team. Her positive attitude and go get ‘em nature make her such a delight, so I jumped at the chance to find out about her experiences as a PAWS Wildlife Center volunteer.

Here’s what she had to say:

Jodi

How did you come to volunteer for PAWS?
After we moved to Seattle last winter, my husband saw a call for PAWS volunteers in an online newspaper. Knowing how crazy I am about wildlife, he sent me link and I decided to see if PAWS’ philosophies gelled with my own.

What’s it like to be a volunteer with us?
BUSY! There is a lot to do and it always seems like we are racing the clock. With a few key exceptions (squirrels, anyone?), there is not a lot of hands-on animal handling. You have to check the urge to ooh and ahh at these wild patients so I also do a weekly shift at the Companion Animal Shelter.

With so many wonderful organizations to choose from why do you continue to support PAWS?
PAWS makes it easy to give something of yourself. Supporting an organization often means giving financial support, which is critical, but is never as personally fulfilling as I desire. Knowing that I play even a small part in the rehabilitation and release of a wild animal gives me a deep sense of satisfaction.

Is there anyone specific that has influenced your decision to continue volunteering?
Not any one person but an attitude. There is an atmosphere of “ask me anything” that permeates PAWS Wildlife Center. The staff are eager to share their knowledge and don’t look upon my curiosity as an intrusion.

What is the most fun you’ve had at PAWS Wildlife Center?
Cleaning the raccoon silos. Their intense curiosity makes them so much fun to observe. You can almost see their brains working as they explore their surroundings, including trying to figure out what that funny thing is we call a “broom” and attempting to catch raindrops in their paws.

What do you do when you aren’t volunteering?
Appropriately enough, I am a wildlife and landscape photographer - my husband and I run City Escapes Nature Photography. Otherwise, I lead a pretty stereotypically-domesticated life. I read like crazy, knit, crochet and bake. I am learning to play an instrument and live to spoil my husband.

What might someone be surprised to learn about you?
I don’t have a pet! I grew up with many animals including goats, chickens and even a cockatiel that flew into our house and set up shop, but my husband is terribly allergic. I share my love of wildlife with him through our travels since you really shouldn’t be getting close enough to an elephant or polar bear for your allergies to kick in.

Inspired by Jodi? Become a PAWS volunteer today and help keep Washington State wildlife thriving!
No spare time to volunteer? There's another way you can help us continue helping wild animals in need. Donate now.
Find out more about wildlife rehabilitation at PAWS.


By Jennifer Convy & Jen Mannas, PAWS Wildlife Center

Fall is in full swing at PAWS and at this time of year we typically receive seabirds at our Wildlife Center.

Washington State’s hundreds of miles of coastline bordering Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean make it a great year round home for many seabird species. As seabirds move to their wintering habitats in the open ocean from Washington’s inland lakes, they form large feeding flocks in the open oceans. These flocks can be comprised of thousands of birds of various species, all susceptible to large storms, oil spills and obstacles such as fishing nets.

Gill-nets are commonly used in the Pacific Ocean to catch several species of fish including salmon and tuna. These nets are set at different depths in the water column to target certain species of fish and are extremely difficult to see in the water. Unfortunately this means that other species of wildlife, including seabirds and marine mammals can become entangled in these nets.

Rhinoceros-Auklet-10222014-JM-(2)-web-resize-KS

This is what happened recently to two adult Rhinoceros Auklets that were brought to our Wildlife Center on October 21st. Luckily for them the fisherman, or fisherwoman in this case, was able to remove the birds safely from the net and bring them to PAWS for care.

PAWS rehabilitation and veterinary staff examined the auklets shortly after their arrival to find no apparent injuries. Like all seabirds we care for, we then monitored the auklets in a pool enclosure to determine if their water proofing had been compromised in any way from the entanglement.

Seabirds have an intricate feather pattern responsible for their waterproofing qualities; enabling them to float properly, dive deep for feeding, evade danger and to stay dry and warm while in their aquatic environment. In order to maintain this complex waterproofing system seabirds regularly preen their feathers back into alignment each day. If anything such as a net or oil damages their feather patterns, and they are unable to realign their feathers into place quickly and easily, the feather waterproofing system is compromised and seabirds can get hypothermia resulting in either beaching themselves or drowning.

It is a common misunderstanding to assume all water birds can float just because they are seabirds or ducks, instead their floating success all depends on their waterproofing abilities.

Rhinoceros-Auklet-10222014-JM-(3)-web-resize-KS

After observing these auklets swimming and diving at PAWS we noticed that the waterproofing structure on their back feathers needed a bit more preening and realignment to ensure these birds would be successful post-release. They stayed at PAWS a few more days to allow them time to completely preen their feathers into place, eat well and be strong and ready for the cold ocean again.

After just 3 days in our care their feathers were back in tip-top shape and they were ready to swim free in Puget Sound once again, which is where they were released on October 24th.

Make a donation and help us continue providing a safe haven for recovering wildlife at PAWS.

Found a wild animal? Find out what to do and how PAWS can help.


By Katherine Spink, PAWS Staff

The Foster Care Program here at PAWS saves more than 1,600 animals every year and ensures that every dog and cat brought to us, no matter how small or in need, gets that second chance at life.

Emily and Ray

In this feature, we go behind the scenes with foster care volunteer Emily Garwood—who's been part of our dedicated team for seven years—and find out what she loves about being a foster mom for animals in need. 

What does your role involve?
I foster cats and kittens. I already have a cat and a dog (Ray, pictured with Emily opposite), so for me it's just adding one more to the mix and sharing my bathroom for a couple of weeks (that's where I home my foster animals for the most part).

PAWS provides all the medication and veterinary needs for the animal. I supply food, water, litter and love!

What made you decide to get involved at PAWS?
I moved to Seattle in September 2003 and didn't know a single person. I decided to find an organization to volunteer for, thinking that I would meet people that had some of the same interests as me. My love of animals drew me to PAWS.

Tell us some of your favorite things about fostering.
I love knowing that I had a part in helping an animal on their journey to finding a forever home. Getting to really spend time with the animals is an honor, and I love helping potential adopters get a better idea of the true personality of animal. They can be so different in a home setting, away from the shelter.

And kittens... how else can you have kittens as much as you want?!

What are some of the challenges involved in fostering?
Sometime bad things happen, an animal is really sick or a kitten doesn't make it without its mother. I cry but I always trust PAWS staff to make the right and humane decision. 

How do you feel when it’s time to give your foster furries back?
It's hard but I also know that if I keep this one, I can't help the next one.

What makes a good foster caregiver?
A big heart and lots of love. Also being realistic, knowing that you will fall in love with the animals you care for but you can't keep them all.

Wobbles-E-Appeal-Main-Image,-Oct-22-2014 Share one of your favorite foster animals.
Recently I fostered Wobbles (pictured right), a cat who came to PAWS with a broken pelvis that meant strict cage rest for about 2 months.

Knowing that I was able to help him to heal and be put up for adoption is an amazing feeling. I know someone will be able to look past his special needs and see the great cat he is.

What advice would you give to anyone considering fostering for PAWS?
Try it! It doesn't take a lot and you make a huge difference.

What do you do when you’re not fostering?
I'm a nanny full time for three children under 4. I love to cook, bake, read and travel, exploring new places and seeing new things.

Inspired by Emily? Join our Foster Care Team today.

No spare time to volunteer? There's another way you can help us. Donate now.

Find out what happened to four orphaned puppies who were cared for by the Foster Care team this summer. 


By Jen Mannas, Naturalist

The end of April marks the start of baby raccoon season at PAWS.

When young raccoons first arrive at our wildlife center most are very small and their eyes are still closed. They are orphans who are too young to survive on their own and are still in need of care from mom.

Upon arrival each raccoon is examined by our rehabilitators. Those in need of medical attention are also examined by our veterinary team and treated for injuries or illness. Once they are deemed healthy they join their siblings in the nursery.

There are two raccoon nurseries at PAWS and they are both in full swing for the majority of the spring and into the summer. The young raccoons stay in the nurseries for a few weeks before being moved to an outside enclosure where they spend the remainder of their time with us.

The PAWS team cares for them with daily cleanings, feedings and by providing enrichment to stimulate their senses and their minds.

Raccoon-Release-10092014-JM-resize-KS

Raccoons remain with us through the summer and into the early fall when they are old enough for release. With collaboration and help from local agencies, suitable release sites are located.

These sites are especially chosen for raccoons, with a body of water nearby, plenty of space for them to roam and away from humans and other hazards like highways.

This year our first raccoon release took place at the end of September and by mid-October all 41 of our summer raccoon patients had been released back into the wild.

It is quite a sight watching these raccoons explore their new environment for the first time. Their heightened sense of touch allows them to experience the world a lot differently than many other mammalian species. This is very apparent as they leave the safety of their release carriers.

Raccoon Babies Feel World For First Time from PAWS on Vimeo.

They take their time and touch everything and some things they are touching for the very first time. After a while they make their way deeper into the safety of the forest and you can see the vegetation move from side to side as they navigate their way into their new surroundings.

Make a donation and help us continue providing a safe haven for recovering wildlife at PAWS.

Found a wild animal? Find out what to do and how PAWS can help.


By Katherine Spink, PAWS Staff

This month we share the story of Ruka, whose adventure with Tracy and Andre began back in 2007 and has been non-stop ever since!  

What made you decide to adopt from a shelter versus purchase from a breeder?
Adopting from a shelter was an important one for us. It is heart breaking the reasons why so many people give up on their animals. With so many great animals, we knew there would be a match for us at a shelter.

Tracy&Ruka2011

What was it that most attracted you to Ruka?
We didn’t know about Ruka going into the shelter. We talked to PAWS staff about what we were looking for. A dog who was game to go places; to work, on vacation, to the beach, to the park, out and about, anywhere and everywhere. I used to play a game – “If I Had A Dog” – and would imagine all the fun stuff we’d do together. PAWS staff said Ruka was our boy.

When Ruka got out into the play area, he started to prance! We would throw a toy and he would run up and stop it from moving, then prance around the play yard! When we went up to him, he leaned into the affection. He has a big personality. His intake papers said he was “friendly, but somewhat hyper”. All true.

Is Ruka any particular breed?
PAWS called him an Australian Shepherd mix. We genetically tested him. If you believe there’s weight to those tests, he came back as 100% dog and a mutt. 1/8 Beauceron, 1/8 Golden Retreiver, 1/8 Corgi, 1/8 Pug, 1/8 Irish Setter, 3/8 unknown. So not a breed, just a dog.

How was your adoption experience with PAWS?
PAWS was a great experience for us. The staff really knew their animals, and animal behavior. The notes we read and the conversations we had about Ruka really described him. We were prepared for the friendly hyper pup we were bringing home.

Tell us about your first journey home and how you settled in together.
We were so unprepared! Ruka didn’t have a bowl or a bed or any toys… we had no idea when you adopt a dog from a shelter they can be ready to go home that day! He had a hectic first few hours driving all around Seattle buying supplies.

By the time we got him home he was pretty nervous, and started to tip things over – his water bowl, plants… anything that could tip, he tipped it. We got him into manners class fairly quickly, we knew it would be really important for bonding. There was an adjustment period – we all had to learn to trust each other and get on the same page. To understand him and for him to understand us.

Share some of the highlights of life with Ruka.
Ruka has moved with us from Seattle to Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh to the Berkshires, back to Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh to Aspen, CO and now from Aspen to Vancouver, WA. He’s been to 29 of the contiguous United States and has swum in both oceans.

One of his most favorite activities is to eat. Anything. He will train for lettuce! He’s very food motivated which makes him easy to train. He also loves to play fetch. He didn’t use to like fetch. But sometime around age 4, he decided he loved it when we bought a Chuck It.

Can't see this video of Ruka playing fetch? Try watching it on YouTube.

We adopted Merlin, his dog sister, in 2011 from a shelter in Pennsylvania. She makes a great companion for fetch, reliably retrieving the ball while Ruka carries his around in his mouth and smashes it in his teeth.

We discovered Ruka could sing! And that his favorite song is Black Horse and a Cherry Tree by KT Tunstall. On the way home from the beach one Thanksgiving, probably a year or two after we adopted him, the song came on the radio and Ruka started to howl to the woo-hoos! It’s his jam.

How has Ruka changed your life?
Ruka makes everything a bit better: vacations, naps, coming home, and even the bad times. He has brought us to the present through his enthusiasm for training and life in general, and this has made both me and Andre more intentional, thoughtful and compassionate people. Ruka introduces us to people through his good natured friendliness and we’ve made friends in every neighborhood we’ve lived in. Both Andre and I are better people and more active because of Ruka.

Catch2010

Any fun things you’re looking forward to?
We just moved and are settling back in the Northwest. Every Thanksgiving we go to the Oregon coast and spend days on the beach throwing the ball for the dogs. About half the vacations we take are actually dog focused and we’re looking forward to exploring new places with our canine companions.

What would you say to anyone who isn’t sure whether to adopt a shelter dog?
Shelter dogs aren’t used cars or clothes. They’re living things. They deserve second chances and forever homes.

Breeders don’t ensure you know what you’re getting. Every dog, like every individual child you have or friend you make, is different. You work on the relationship together, no matter the origin.

There are a ton of statistics on animals in shelters or rescues needing homes. You can even find purebred dogs. We get asked a lot of the time what kind of dogs our two rescues are… and we say your guess is as good as ours, but they’re 100% love! And they’re 100% dog!

Tracy and Andre, thank you for sharing such a wonderful update. We wish you another seven years filled with happiness and adventures!

If, like Tracy, you found your perfect match (or matches!) at PAWS, we want to hear about it. Email us to be featured in PAWS Where Are They Now.

Help care for our companion animals as they wait for their second chancevolunteer.

Find your Ruka todayadopt.

Donate now and help us continue providing a safe place for companion animals in need.


By Jen Mannas, Naturalist

Every evening in a small neighborhood in Clinton, Washington a pair of Great Horned Owls can be heard amongst the trees calling to each other. One evening recently, the male decided to pick a very unfortunate spot to eat his freshly caught mouse.

He landed on a transformer on top of a power pole. This caught the eye of a resident on her nightly walk. She watched the owl peck at his meal when suddenly there was a loud bang and a flash of light. The next thing she saw was the owl falling to the ground.

She rushed over to see if he was still alive and found him sitting upright and very stunned. Concerned that he had some serious injuries she scooped him up in a towel and brought him to PAWS the next morning.

Great-Horned-Owl-KS-web-resize

When the owl arrived at our Wildlife Hospital he didn’t have any obvious injuries but he was pale and dehydrated.

After the veterinarian team examined him they found that he had some bruising on his feet and possibly a detached retina. He was considered very lucky since there was no sign of an entry or exit point for the electrical charge he endured.

However, the main concern with this patient was how damaged his retina actually was and if he would be able to see well enough to hunt again. 

Eyesight as well as hearing are very important for owl survival. They must be able to hone in on their prey while hunting and accurately judge distance for striking.

Great Horned Owls primarily hunt from a perch at night and rely heavily on their eye sight to do so. They have extremely big eyes, even for an owl. Their pupils open widely and their retinas are predominately made of rods which help their eyes function effectively in low light.

The maximum effective hunting distance of a Great Horned Owl from an elevated perch is 300 feet. Pretty impressive don’t you think?

Luckily for this owl his eye injury was not serious. In just under 2 weeks he demonstrated to us that he was able to catch live prey, fly quietly and accurately, and was deemed ready for release.

We rode the evening ferry to Whidbey Island and returned him to the neighborhood he came from. Residents watched in excitement as he flew from his carrier and landed in a nearby tree where he called for his mate.

Make a donation and help us continue providing a safe haven for recovering wildlife at PAWS.

Found a wild animal? Find out what to do and how PAWS can help.

Worried about power lines putting birds in your area at risk? Read about the Snohomish County Avian Protection Program.


By Katherine Spink, PAWS Staff

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. When it comes to our adorable adoptables, it can mean the difference between a few days or a few months of patiently waiting for the perfect forever family to walk through our shelter door.

Angie-McMeins-and-Sadie

In this month’s Volunteer Spotlight, we talk to Angie McMeins (pictured right, with Sadie). She's one of several talented Web Team photographers who kindly give their time and expertise to capturing that perfect moment for each and every PAWS adoptable.

What led you to get involved at PAWS?
I’ve always wanted to work in animal rescue but never had the time when I had to work full time to support myself, a mortgage and three pets. I worked in corporate advertising for years and it was unrewarding work that didn’t fulfill my creative needs. Now, I’m lucky to have a supportive husband and the opportunity for a “second chance” in life.

When I looked at the volunteer opportunities at PAWS and saw I could be a photographer, the decision was a no brainer. I’ve combined my education and life experience with two of my passions: photography and animals!

Tell us some of your favorite things about your role at PAWS.
I absolutely love working with the animals, they are why we’re here. Even if I’m not feeling my best, I can come in and get some 'fur therapy' and go home with a smile. Photographing rescue animals is the most challenging (and the most rewarding) thing I’ve ever done. I've also made some great friends, I always feel at home when I’m at PAWS.

Talk us through a typical shift.
I work with shelter staff to compile a list of animals that need to be photographed, and then off I go! We have many adopters who drive a long way to meet our animals based on the photos we post online, so our focus is to get the best possible photos of each animal and help someone fall in love with them.

What do you do when you’re not at PAWS?
Besides photography, my passion is scuba diving. Anyone who thinks taking topside (what we divers call 'land') photos is difficult should try shooting underwater loaded down with dive gear, paying attention to dive time and depth, while chasing down a constantly moving fish not remotely interested in posing! As for work, I started a pet sitting business several years ago. I’m also an avid reader, and I love to cook, garden and spend time outdoors, usually with a camera in hand!

Jack-collage

What are you hoping for when you come to take a photo of an animal available for adoption?
My hope is that my photos might help an animal get adopted more quickly. I hope for good lighting, a calm animal, dry ground (since I often lay down to get at eye level) and a place where I can shoot uninterrupted. However, hopes and reality often differ, so I just take it one animal at a time and try to get the best photos I can.

I want to minimize their stress, give them a break from the kennel, let them smell things and hopefully get a few good pictures. I know I’ve nailed a photo when I see it and my heart skips a beat. When that animal gets adopted quickly, it’s the best feeling in the world.

What are the specific challenges of photographing shelter companion animals?
Where do I start?! Besides bad weather and bad lighting, I’m dealing with confused, stressed animals who don’t understand why they’re in this strange, loud environment. They don’t know me, and a lot of them are scared of the camera.

I often try to spend time with them before I even try to take a picture; give them some treats, let them smell me, let them hear my voice, maybe give a scratch behind the ears if they’ll let me.

If I’m successful in winning their trust, then I start taking photos - hanging onto the leash with one hand and operating the camera with the other, all while figuring out how to get them to look at me, to stop licking the lens, to stop stealing hot dogs out of my treat bag, to stop trying to chase that squirrel! 

Take Jack (pictured right) for example. In typical beagle fashion, he was far more interested in treats than in being cooperative for the camera. Taking photos of him was a challenge as he was either in the process of barking or just finished barking with a funny look on his face. I finally did get a nice photo of his beautiful brown eyes and soft velvety ears.

Any funny moments to share?
My funniest PAWS moment actually involves kittens. I love going in the cat colony room at PAWS in Lynnwood since I can photograph several cats at once and get some kitty love at the same time. This particular day, I was trying to take photos of a cat that was more interested in smelling my shoes than looking at the camera, so I sat down on the floor to get a better angle.

All of the sudden, I feel a “thump” on my back. A kitten had jumped on me and was climbing up my back! As I was twisting to try to get the kitten, I felt a leg go down the back of my pants! So by this time, the first cat had stopped smelling my shoes and crawled in my lap, the climbing kitten had managed to crawl up my braid and was sitting on my head (memo to self, don’t wear long hair in a style that cats can climb!), and a third cat had its leg down my pants.

I just sat on the floor covered in cats and laughed until I cried. I’m really glad no one was around, I’m sure I would have ended up on YouTube!

As for taking good animal photos, here are Angie’s top tips:

Focus on the eyes: The eyes are the story, they show the animal's personality, their feelings, their soul. You don’t have to show the entire animal, focus on the essence of that animal and let their story speak for itself.

Get on their level: Don’t look down on them, lay down on the ground or the floor and see the world the way they do. Try some unique angles, maybe shooting below their nose or through a bush. This leads to much more interesting results.

Angie-and-Draco

Be patient: Photographing animals is challenging in any circumstance but animals in a shelter add a new dimension. Spend the time making them comfortable, have treats, love on them, let them walk around. I’ve spent an hour with one frightened hyperactive dog, and ended up getting fantastic photos. We are there to get the best photos we can, don’t rush the process.

What would you say to anyone interested in photography at PAWS?
Sign up for volunteer orientation now! We’re always looking for new talented people to join us. It doesn’t matter if you’re an amateur enthusiast or a pro, or what kind of equipment you use. All you need is a love for animals, a passion for photography and a heart of gold.

We also need handlers to assist our photographers in getting the animals out for photos, holding and positioning them, and giving treats or playing with the animal to get them to interact. Make a difference and join us in our mission of helping animals at PAWS find their forever homes.

Thanks for this fascinating insight into photography at PAWS Angie – we couldn’t do what we do without you and our wonderful Web Team!

Inspired by Angie? Become a PAWS volunteer today.
No spare time to volunteer? There's another way you can help us. Donate now.
October is National Adopt A Shelter Dog Month and we're celebrating! Check out our adoption special for adult dogs 7yrs+.