I’ve been reading The Lost Dogs by Jim Gorant, the story about Michael Vick’s dogs. The first part was extremely difficult to read, but the story of these dogs’ redemption and rehabilitation has been beyond inspirational. Reading this book has really given me a chance to reflect on the dogs of BARCS – both those we’ve lost and those that continue to struggle with the realities of life in a shelter. At times, when I stop myself long enough to think about the realities of the shelter, the stress these dogs are under, and the fate some of them face, I begin to break down. As most of you know, my volunteer work with BARCS has become such a huge part of what I do and who I am. A little part of me dies every time I find out that a dog I’ve photographed, a dog I’ve walked, a dog I’ve loved has been killed. I just cannot understand how so many people grow up thinking that this is all okay and that these amazing animals are completely disposable. So many wonderful dogs (and cats) have been euthanized and I just can’t wrap my head around it. These loyal and trusting creatures – man’s best friend – have been let down by humans up until their final breath.
I’ve been searching for a therapeutic way to express my sadness while also honoring our own lost dogs of Baltimore. As I sat at my computer, scrolling through my catalog of BARCS images last week, I saw the happy faces of so many animals that are no longer with us. So I decided to put together this blog post as a tribute to those we lost far too soon because of the actions of irresponsible owners. A tribute to those who were failed by humans every step of the way. I may not be able to stop this vicious cycle by myself, but the one thing I can do as a photographer is share these precious faces with the world. They all had names, they all had faces, they all had souls and goofy smiles. They are not nameless statistics and their lives (and deaths) will not go unnoticed. I count myself lucky to have known these dogs and to have had the chance to photograph them and capture their spirit in these images. They will live on through these photos forever. We will remember them and keep fighting in their honor.
Below are those dogs whose fate I simply don’t know. Whose lives may have turned out okay, but statistically speaking, probably didn’t. These are the faces of the missing. I believe some of these dogs went to the Maryland SPCA, where their adoption status is unknown. Some of them may have been adopted from BARCS, many of them probably not. To me, every single one of these faces will not be forgotten. It’s funny – I’ve photographed 254 dogs for BARCS since March (yup – I counted!) and I still remember 99% of these dogs’ names just by looking at their face. To me, they are all individuals. Dogs that deserved better than what life handed them.
This problem is not unique to Baltimore. The entire situation is overwhelming and upsetting because I strongly believe that this could be fixed with proper education to the public and programs that require spay and neutering of all animals. I hope for a day where I don’t come home from taking photos at the shelter, only to learn some of the dogs I met that morning are already gone. I hope for a day when I don’t have to deal with such devastating news on such a consistent basis. Until then, I will keep volunteering, keep raising awareness, keep promoting adoption and rescue. These dogs did not die in vain. Their lives will be remembered, their smiles permanently embedded in my brain. I fight this battle so that other dogs don’t have to face the same fate. We loved you all and we’ll meet you at the bridge.