Saturday, May 9, 2009

A year’s worth of second-look beauties

WHS executive director Penny Cistaro attempts to corral a skittish Arabian horse so we can photograph her. Red was emaciated and neglected when she was seized by the shelter, so she panics when people come over, fearing she will be taken away.

For the past six springs, I've hit the road for a week interviewing animals with death-defying survival stories. The project showcases Whatcom Humane Society's successes -- 12 animals who beat the odds.

Here's the best part: it gives me the chance to write about happy endings. In our business, there are never enough of those.

This week I've been interviewing dogs, cats, and horses. Fuzzy yellow ducklings, mischievous goats, and even charging buffalo have made cameo appearances.

I admit it. Despite our animal handling experience, the shoots don't usually go smoothly. The ones selected to model the days of a month aren't aware that fame comes at a price -- the invasion of their privacy. And for those with backgrounds dominated by neglect or cruelty, they are often uncomfortable meeting new people. Particularly those of us sticking cameras in their faces.

My job is to lure the guardians away from the animals by asking questions. Then WHS executive director Penny Cistaro helps pose the pets for the photographer. Chasing them around houses and yards to get a good shot is standard protocol.

There are always animals who make us laugh at their antics, and those who make us cry for their stories.

I'll let the photos tell the rest.

Shelter director Penny Cistaro and photographer Steven Kennedy help Bandit pose for his moment of fame. This cat was living in a filthy cage in the back of a moving van at a Wal-Mart parking lot when he was taken in by the shelter.

Emma was dropped off at a gas station when she was six months old with a note attached from her family saying they couldn't take care of her anymore.

It was plain that Roberta -- a hoarder house survivor -- had a fiery personality when she rocked up for her shoot. Her cage was marked "I bite." She stayed true to her cantankerous image by dive-bombing us. Her new guardian Rick Reed used to hunt birds until he realized their charms. "I don't care to kill birds anymore," said Rick, who now keeps 15 of them as pets.

A stallion named Moxie breaks into a gallop with his pal Barney. So much for that close-up shot!

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