Lauren Sheldon used to be afraid of dogs, so when the London based photographer finally came to get her own, a rescue seemed out of the question. Like many others, she’d assumed that dogs in shelters were there because of behavioural and aggression problems, but the more rescues she met, the more she realised how wrong she was.
Animal rescue has now become a passion of Lauren’s, and to spread the word she has launched her Rescue Me project. She is photo-documenting people across boroughs of London who have rescued a dogs to capture the joy that the dog and owner have brought to each other. Along with the images, Lauren has also recorded audio of her encounters which you can listen to on her website. She is working on turning the images into book and hopes to host an exhibition.
What inspired your Rescue Me project?
Since getting my own dog Sid, a Parsons Russell Terrier three years ago, my photography has been almost solely focused on him and dogs in general. I’ve met many dog owners and dogs, and my love for them has grown and grown. I really feel for shelter dogs who are waiting for a home, and I hoped that combining my love for both photography and dogs, I would be able to help, if only in a small way to raise awareness for the cause.
Why do you want advocate the ‘Adopt Don’t Shop’ Message?
As a child I was a little scared of dogs, so when it came to choosing a dog for myself, it made the idea of rescuing one a scary option. I had the typical misconceptions that all dogs in shelters would have behavioural problems, and possible aggression issues; I just didn’t feel like I was up for the job. I was much more comfortable with the idea of nurturing a dog from a puppy.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. In my experience dogs in shelters are no different to any other dog, if anything, they are more loving and grateful for attention – I have seen this first hand through this project. I hope I can use my work as a tool to get this message across.
What do you want people to take away from Rescue Me?
I am completely aware that rescuing isn’t for everyone and it’s not my aim to make those people feel guilty, however, I would like to think that the people who are in a position to rescue would see how adopting a dog can be so beneficial not only for the dog, but for them too.
What struck you most when photographing and interviewing your subjects?
I was a total emotional wreck when it came to listening to the poignant stories of some of the dogs; I would often head home with tears in my eyes. What struck me the most was how the families were so determined to make the dogs the centre of their lives and how much love they had to give, even when it had been a struggle during the early stages of the adoption.
Do you think there’s an extra special bond between a rescue dog and this owner?
All of the families I visited remarked on how grateful their four legged friends were, so yes I’d like to think that there is a special bond.
Tell us about one of your favourite rescue stories from the series?
Zapper, (formerly known as Talksport Zapper) is a 10-year-old retired racing greyhound. He was spotted on the Allsorts Dog Rescue website by Fiona Heyes in the April of 2006, and she and her mum went to meet him. He’d had a hard winter, he’d been kennelled with lots of other dogs and had a bad kennel coat and generally looked a bit mangey.
Fiona’s mother commented that the best of him was yet to come and she was right. He was desperate to go home with them in the car and tried to clamber into it. He clearly hated his kennel. They say that you don’t choose your dog, your dog chooses you and that was certainly the case here.
The next weekend Fiona returned with her husband and two children and took him home. He grinned at them a lot because they think he was really enjoying himself and the attention he was getting. Initially they had quite a sharp learning curve, looking after a working animal that had never been in a domestic environment before. He barked at shiny surfaces and he peed in the bookcase.
It took Zapper at least two years to be the dog they know now. He has become a much-loved part of the family and is amazing company for them all. His kidneys are now starting to fail and obviously they don’t want to think of the consequences of that or how much time they have. Even with this painful condition he still runs like the wind which is awe-inspiring. The Heyes family are moving to LA this summer, and of course they are taking their beloved Zapper too!
Listen to Zapper’s story and lots of other beautiful tales of rescue at Lauren’s website watchdabirdie.co.uk. If you are thinking of rescuing an animal, visit our charities page to see a number of great rescue organisation that we support.