When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.
Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.
"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."
Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."
That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."
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Peach was just a kitten when Chris Henderson fell head over heels for her. He had recently moved from Scotland to Houston, and the whole city was under quarantine due to the coronavirus pandemic. Chris was waiting for his fiancé Emma's visa to come through so she could join him, and he was feeling a bit lonely. He thought perhaps a pet might help with that. When he found Peach on Best Friends Animal Society's website, he was struck by her.
"There was just something unusual about her coat, and she looked pretty adorable," Chris said.
A few days later, he met Peach at her foster home and the rest, as they say, is history. After he adopted her, he was grateful to have learned about the kitten's habits from her foster mom.
"Peach uses her voice a lot when she wants something," Chris said. "It would have worried me, as it was different to the cats I had growing up. But knowing that was just her nature really put my mind at ease."
Emma met Peach via video chat and was instantly smitten. Once Emma arrived in the U.S., the couple adopted another kitten from Best Friends—a little black and white sister for Peach named Lyra.
"Adopting her was the best decision I made during the pandemic by a large margin," Chris says.
Chris and Emma weren't the only ones who turned to pets for comfort and companionship when the pandemic hit. A record number of pets found temporary or forever homes in 2020. In fact, some animal shelters saw their kennels cleared out for the first time ever as people sought pets to keep them company.
However, pandemic pet adoptions have waned as people have started to come out of isolation and return to work. According to Best Friends, pet adoptions are down 3.7% overall this year. Meanwhile, the number of animals coming into shelters in June was up 5.9% compared to 2020. Despite rumors of hordes of people returning their "pandemic pets", the data doesn't actually show that trend; however, shelters are struggling with too many pets in need and not enough homes to help them.
Adding to the crisis, shelters are experiencing the same employee shortage affecting many industries nationwide. A survey of more than 150 shelters and animal organizations conducted by Best Friends found that 88% are short on staff, 57% have cut hours or programs due to short staffing, and 41% are down more than 25% of normal staff levels. This, of course, puts more stress on those who are still working in shelters.
"I've said it many times before, but now more than ever, we need the public to adopt or foster," says Julie Castle, CEO of Best Friends Animal Society, a national animal welfare organization dedicated to saving dogs and cats in shelters around the country and helping families to keep pets in homes.
"If you have been considering getting a new pet, now is the time. The public stepped up during the pandemic, and we need to do it again because countless animals' lives are at stake if this progress backslides."
Adopting or fostering from shelters genuinely does save lives. When animals outnumber people willing to take them in and the cost of caring for the animals outweighs available resources, animals unfortunately end up being euthanized. Thanks to advocates like Best Friends, the U.S. has gone from killing 17 million animals per year to about 347,000, which is great, but we need to remember that each one of those numbers is a life lost. Best Friends is dedicated to making the U.S. an entirely no-kill nation by 2025—an ambitious goal, but one that is within reach if more people choose pet adoption.
People who love animals but don't want to commit to lifelong care can foster, which frees up space in shelters, gives animals a temporary loving home until they are adopted, and helps get animals socialized with humans.
Fostering can also be a first step. Alix Walburn had only been a foster mom to a sweet dog named Giddy for about a week when she realized she didn't want anyone else to adopt her. Giddy had heartworm disease, and the plan was for Alix to foster her just during her course of medication. As it turned out, Giddy snuck right into Alix's heart with her cute face, loving eyes, and cuddly, playful personality.
"She will just curl up next to you, or put her little head on your lap," says Walburn. "No matter where you are, she just instantly melts into your hands."
Foster-Win! Heartworm positive dog gets adopted by amazing foster www.youtube.com
"Shelters, and the animals in them, need our help in a big way," Castle says. "Pets have been a part of our lives long before the pandemic, and we want to work with families to help them find their best friend while also saving a life."
Not everyone is in a position to adopt or foster animals, of course. But you can still help animals by donating or volunteering with your local shelter. You can also support the Best Friends mission of making the U.S. a no-kill nation by 2025 by checking out the Pet Lifesaving Dashboard to see where your community ranks. (Shelters with a 90% save rate are considered no-kill shelters, since some animals arrive at shelters too injured or sick to save. So far, just two states have achieved no-kill status, so there's work to be done.)
Adopting or fostering a pet from a shelter is a win-win-win choice—the animal gets a loving home, the shelter gets space freed up to help more animals, and you get a new friend to love and enjoy. If you've been thinking of adding a cat or dog or some other pet to your life, now is the time. Go to bestfriends.org to learn more about how to adopt or foster a pet.
Military spouses often choose their spouse's career over their own. This organization is changing that.
When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."
"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.
The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.
"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."
Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.
Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.
Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.
She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.
Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.
Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.
"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."
"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.
Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.
"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.
"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."
"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."
"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."
"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."
Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.
She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.
That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."
Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."
To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!
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