For each of the dogs in the pictures you see, a miracle occurred. While they sat, often in a cold shelter, sleeping sometimes on a concrete floor, with the clock ticking on their lives, an amazing fleet of digital volunteers went to work. They facebooked, tweeted and shared these dog's "pound intake photos" online, desperate to find someone, anywhere in the country, who would be inspired by one of their pictures and want to help.
Social Media Miracles
The goal of these social media campaigns is to get momentum going online. Some people who saw posts about the dogs clicked "like" on facebook and tweeted it. Others shared the pet's photo on their own pages or emailed it to a friend who was looking for a dog. It's a numbers game, the more people who share the posts, the greater odds someone will see it and take action. For these dogs it worked! The pets in this picture slideshow are the lucky ones: They were adopted, scored a foster home, or a ride to freedom with a rescue group before they were put to sleep in an animal control facility.
Some of these dogs were saved just minutes, even seconds before they were going to be euthanized. That's when the pound phone rang and the animal control officer learned they got a last minute reprieve: Someone showed interest in the dog and they were coming to pick them up. Kind of like the governor calling when someone's time on the Green Mile is growing short. Animal rescue groups all have many stories about pets led to euthanasia rooms and seconds before the deed was to be done that phone call came through. That's why so many volunteers keep posting animal's photos online, hoping for a last minute miracle.
Looking Beyond the Doggie Mug Shot
If you look at the photos of these dogs taken while they were in the shelter, it's an even bigger miracle they were saved. The poor creatures look petrified, horrified, withdrawn, sad and sullen in their pictures. Of course, no one thrown in the clink looks good in their mug shots, and the same is true for these pooches. Problem is those bad pictures can be tragic from a public relations perspective. A dog's future often depends on their photo, which is usually taken in terrible UV lighting, at what may be the worst moment of their lives.
Animal rescuers warn: Don't judge a dog by its cover... photo. Potential adopters need to remember some of these dogs woke up in a comfy bed with families they lived with for years one morning only to get dumped at the pound later that day. Some confused pooches got tied to a tree while their owners sped off, leaving them behind. The bottom line: Most dogs who end up in an animal control facility are horrified.
Cindy Nail, who adopted Chase seen in the slide show, urges people to look past a dog's anxiety-ridden photo, "A shelter is a noisy, confusing, scary place for any dog. Many intelligent, loving, and friendly pups break down in a shelter environment, either acting out in fear aggression or becoming so petrified they will not move. Please do not overlook these poor babies. Most of them blossom as soon as they are outside, and display all the best qualities in a pup anyone could ever wish for."
Chase's post "pound pictures" in the slideshow show exactly what Nail is talking about. You can see the pup actually give her husband a hug. Many animal rescue volunteers are convinced when a dog ends up in an animal shelter somehow they know they're facing death row, and some are heartbroken as to why they ended up there in the first place. But as Nail points out they also, "Know when they are safe, and they immediately revert to a lively, loving, wonderful lifetime companion once they are out." (For more proof of that, see the labs in their "freedom ride" picture.)
Diamonds in the Ruff
Veterinarian Deborah Kelloway runs All Better Pets in Manchester, NH. Her nonprofit organization takes in unwanted animals, cares for them and puts them up for adoption. Elena and Eddie, featured in the slideshow, were on death row in a Georgia shelter. Their time there was just about "up" when Kelloway graciously offered to have them sent to her facility to find "furever" homes on the East Coast. When you see their sad looking pound photos, and then watch this video of the pair once they arrived in NH, the difference is amazing. Those two depressed shelter dogs are having a full scale party they're so happy!
Kelloway says even if you pay a visit to a pound to consider a dog for adoption you may not see its true personality come through from behind bars. "We have seen dogs in a shelter, surrender situation hide in the back of their kennel, show aggression, be overly timid. They are afraid and have no idea what is going to happen to them. They go into a protective mode and keep their guard up and remain on high alert."
But Kelloway adds, soon after the pooch is out of the shelter they're a completely different animal. "Many of these dogs quickly change their demeanor when they realize they are in a safe setting, that people around them are caring for them. It's unfortunate that it can be so difficult to evaluate these dogs in a shelter situation. Many volunteers in the shelter are key to picking up these hidden good qualities that so many of these dogs have. They make all the difference between life and death for them."
Happy Tails After Tragic Beginnings
As you'll see in the slideshow the before and after photos of these dogs truly show what some love, care and a new leash on life does for these animals. The pooches went from mug shots to mugging it up for the camera.
Even devastated dogs like Cinderella, she's the three year old yellow lab with the injured leg in this article's cover photo. She and her one year old son, Marley, were dumped at a Texas shelter after spending their lives tied up in front of a trailer. Cinderella's front leg was broken two years ago and her owners never took her to a vet. Both dogs looked terrible in their pound pictures plastered across social media pages. Poor Marley was so traumatized at the shelter volunteers took this video of him trembling.
The rescue group Save A Lab saw the posts and offered to take the pair who are extremely bonded. As you can see in their freedom ride pictures, taken moments after the dogs left the pound, they looked thrilled. Unfortunately both dogs need to be treated for heart worm and Cinderella faces possible leg amputation because her lack of movement in her injured leg caused her muscles to atrophy.
Eventually the pair will be up for adoption and rescuers hope they can find them a home together. If you want to help give Cinderella and Marley a "happier tail" by applying to adopt the pair, or want to donate to help pay for their medical care, just to go the Save A Lab website.
Update to article 2-12-14: Cinderella, now named Ellie, is recovering well after the amputation surgery. You can check her out in this new video her foster family posted.
Update to article 3-9-14: Cinderella has blossomed into quite a beauty and is now up for adoption!
A Second Look and a Second Chance
Professional photographer Lisa Polk came up with an out of the box idea, she volunteers her time taking actual portrait quality photos of dogs who need homes. "I am trying to show the shelter animals in a way that people will want to adopt them, or rescues will want to save them. Pretty pictures help! The animals almost always look so sad and depressed behind the bars of the cages; however, their true personality and spirit shows once they are let out, even if it is only for a moment to snap some photographs."
Katherine Martin, president of Lucky Lab Rescue has featured Polk's work on their site, you can see the difference these pictures make. Martin urges people to give shelter dogs a second look no matter what their booking photo looks like and a second chance at life. "A once frightened little dog that no one wanted, no one looked at becomes the best and most grateful companion. I've seen it unfold countless times for the ones given the chance. It makes your heart smile."