WOW! Pretty much the words that came out of my mouth when I was asked to write for Guest Blog Wednesday. For those who don't know me I am Josh Bradley, and like Mike Wiacek I am not a full time photographer, but I am heading back in that direction slowly but surely. I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to work as Moose Peterson's assistant for a little over 2 years and learned more in that time about photography than some folks do in 10 years.

As photographers we are always learning with every click of the shutter. We learn to see light in new ways, how to get just a bit lower to the ground so that your subject is larger than life, and most importantly we learn how to tell stories. After all, that is what we are. We are storytellers of moments in time. From the images of star trails with long exposure telling the story of the Earth spinning through space, or at 1/1000th of a second freezing the moment a sprinter crosses the finish line, they are all stories.

So in recent times I have found a new story to tell that that has been in the making for the past year. I live in California in a small mountain community. It's a community that is one filled with lots of animal lovers. Most of the area has ranches with horses, dogs, goats, and the list can go on and on.

One thing that this community also has is a place called Marley's Mutts Dog Rescue. For those who don't know me I am a dog person. I have 4 of my own (all rescues from shelters), and as I am writing this I have one laying under my feet and another trying to get his head scratched (so if there are typos in this post, blame him!). This rescue has been around since 2009, and I have become involved with it doing the photography for all the dogs that are rescued from shelters since late 2010. In the time that I have been helping there have been 200+ dogs rescued with a grand total of 500+ since the rescue opened.

One day I asked the director of the rescue, Zach Skow, "How bad is it at the shelter now?" The next time I visited, he asked me to bring my camera. Suffice to say when I got there I was overwhelmed by the sight.

At that moment this new story started being told. I am calling it "The Abandoned Project" and it tells the stories of dogs in kill shelters. I photographed that day for about an hour. There were hundreds of dogs there to photograph, but I honestly couldn't take it anymore.

The knowledge that most of these dogs weren't going to be around in 3-4 days was heartbreaking. Plus, knowing I may be one of the last people they see that paid them any attention or gave them any type of affection was too much. To give you some perspective, 17,188 dogs came through the county shelter where I was photographing. Of those 17,188 dogs, 10,814 were euthanized.

So I am doing this project and telling this story to put a face to these numbers. It is not easy and the only thing that makes it remotely bearable is that every time we go, we bring back 2 or 3 dogs to the rescue to give them another chance at life, and find them new homes.

The end to the story I am telling is almost done, and I am hoping that bringing awareness to this plight helps reduce the number of dogs in shelters all over. Because I know that if this is going on where I live it has to be going on in other places as well. Even if it was just one other town that had the same statistics, that is one town too many.

For all the photographers out there I will say this in closing. Never EVER stop telling the stories of the world. Photograph and bring light to the dark places so that other people can tell your story and pass it on.

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42 Comments

  1. Great post, Josh!  Hope all is well with you, and I really appreciate the shout out.  Chat soon!

  2. Wow, this speaks directly to my heart. I’ve had only rescue dogs for the past 30 years. They might be a little more work, but they totally deserve your love. More to the point, here is how you can make a difference as a photographer. Imagine a dog on death row, but you make a lovely photo for the website  that gets that dog adopted. Then you become the official photographer for the rescue group. Bring your background/lights and make amazing photos. How else can your photography save lives? Josh, you’re my new hero.

  3. I so much agree with Janine over in the other comment. I too am a dog person and have my 5 rescues, 2 dogs and 3 cats, and I have been to my local kill shelter many times. You have all my admiration for the work you do. You really make a difference!

  4. You have caught the soul of every dog. Every picture tell a story. I am deeply moved by these extraordianry photos and your talent!

  5. The true beauty of the art and craft of photography is to not only tell a story but to capture the true emotion of the subject. You have achieved this feat. Your photographs and words bring to the forefront one of the harsh realities of the tough times many people and consequently their animals are facing.

  6. The best post hands down, I am a shelter volunteer where I live. I always appreciate when people post stuff like this. Thanks for the insperation!!!

  7. Awesome post, we too have a rescue dog and he is such a part of the family now!

  8. Best guest post ever! Thanks so much, Josh! We love our “pound puppy” who we welcomed into our family 11 years ago. We knew he was the dog for us when we saw him jump 4 feet straight up from a standing position, like he had springs on his feet!

  9. Good for you, speaking from the heart, and not about fancy camera/software issues. The simple aesthetic keeps our eyes where they belong, on the dogs’ faces.
    Bob
    http://www.deinfaces.com/

  10. Great post. We too have a rescue dog, somtimes I think she rescued us from a life less full

  11. There needs to be a warning about clearing dust out of the air before looking at these photos…

  12. Wow, you have managed to catch the soul of each dog, and I am amazed at the story. Thank you!

  13. Josh! Great to see you doin it!!!!

  14. Josh, this is a great story and one that need to be told. Having been raised with dogs and cats, heck we had all kinds of pets actually, when growing up. I find it deplorable that people treat animals so badly, but I do find hope in that there are people such as yourself that provide love and attention to these animals.  Being able to tell their story in photos will help draw attention to this great and just cause.

    Where did all that dust come from…..:)

  15. Josh,

    Thanks for sharing. Not an easy story to read, but one that must be told. Gandhi said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” 

    Unfortunately, we seem to fall short in this department, but your story and great images can’t but help us along the way.

  16. thank you for such a wonderful blog. that dog with his nose sticking thru the fencing is breaking my heart even more than the others…like he will take any small part of his body being free. I hope someone saved him in time.

  17. Sorry…I really didn’t like this blog. I found myself depressed after reading this and could barely look at the pics. I am a great dog lover and really didn’t want to be depressed coming to this site. I usually love this site and feel uplifted by the stories. I’ll go read a news website if I wanted to be depress. 
    Sorry to be so negative. I just wanted to express my opinion.

    • Reality is harsh.

      • Very true…..yet i don’t take pics of people dying from cancer and post them on a blog. Then have people say how the images look into there soul.

      • Well these animals don’t have cancer, they are able to be saved by going into a home. These are real numbers. This is something that happens in every city, everyday… 

    • I do agree, but as a animal shelter volunteer and one who has spent many hours reaserching animal cruelty and why dogs like these are in these places. I find this post inperational, and motivating. These dogs would not be there if they had responsible and knoladgable owners previously. I watched online and on national geographic as dogs from the micheal Vick case were rehabilited and put up for adoption.
      I was like you, at the same time I found it hard and with that previous knowledge it made it harder.

      • Very good point. Maybe I was just shocked it was in this kind of blog. Just wasn’t expecting something this harsh.

  18. Great story. I, too, have been photographing shelter dogs for several years through my company, TylerDog Photography (http://www.tylerdog.com) and would love to have you join a great group I belong to called HeARTS Speak. Visit us at http://www.heartsspeak.org.

  19. Wonderful and heartbreaking imagery. We, as a whole, need to treat animals better (including the ones we choose to eat).

  20. Ouch. Heart wrenching. Josh, thank you for sharing and especially towards putting your energy and talent towards raising awareness of this issue. I also really appreciate you showing (not just telling) your story with this post.

  21. Way to go Josh! Great to see your post, passion and photographs. 

  22. Hey Everyone,

    Just wanted to take a second and say thank you for all of your comments and support on this.  I know this subject matter was hard to look at, but getting a face on this is very important.  

    thank you all again 
    Josh

  23. Well timed and deeply personal post for me Josh. Our dog Kila, a rescued friend of 11 years, had to be put to sleep yesterday after multiple seizures. My first born son choose him 2 months before he was born. We went to the shelter when my wife was about 6 months along. We held several puppies, and had all but settled on one, when this beautiful, shy little Aussie/Heeler mix poked his nose out of the little enclosure he was hiding in. My wife picked him up and my son began leaping in her womb. She put the puppy down and he stopped. No reaction as she held several more puppies but every time she picked up Kila our son would start dancing. Clearly this was his dog.
    My son has been away at camp this week. He gets home tonight. This is going to be one of the most difficult evenings of my life as I break the news to him. Your post reminded me of the gift of life and love we gave to that magnificent animal and just how powerfully it was returned. My eyes welled with tears several times yesterday knowing that he is gone but the pain pales in comparison to the countless times my heart welled with love, laughter and pride at the antics and affection of that great friend.
    I sincerely hope your post, and your photos, serve as the catalyst for more adoptions. What you have created here matters immensely. It’s not just the life of an animal that is terminated when a dog is put down, it’s the potential of that beautiful creature to add a thousand layers of richness to the life of a family like ours. Thank you for caring and creating Josh, and thank you to Kelby Media for giving your work a well deserved stage – Be blessed!

    •  Another crazy coincidence in this story: Kila spent the night at the emergency vet clinic. The camp counselor called us yesterday morning to let us know that our son woke up feeling ill and was resting in the nurse’s office with a 100.4 temperature. It looked like we were going to have to make a long trip to pick him up. The counselor called back right after Kila was put to sleep to let us know that our son had made a sudden and full recovery and was on his way to the pool with the rest of the group.

  24. WOW! Well done! Don’t stop the fight! I too have rescues and donate time and resources for our local shelters.

  25. There is nothing more grateful than saved dog :)
    (i have two permanently, and two were passing trough)

    There should never be possibilibity to take those shoots. Dogs should has homes.

  26. It is a great thing to help bring awareness to the public conscious.  As an animal lover, I do find these pictures tough to look at, but in comparison to how these dogs are feeling-not even close.  Thanks Josh, for an insightful post.

  27. I’ve had my picture taken by a guest blogger! (see gravitar image). Woo hoo I’m almost famous!

  28. Extremely sad but great post. I’ll search online to see if there are any local shelters at which I could volunteer.

  29. Such a tragic story, that’s all I can say right now….

  30. Amazing photos! Thanks for showing this though it’s such a tragic story….

  31. Someone already said in in another post, but you are my hero! From the power of your photographs to the compassion you expressed in your words – in my book you should have a cape. Thank you.

  32. Thank you great post. i fully belive, dont breed and buy while the homeless die!

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