Man's Best Friend

 

Lauren Burack, '09
Digital Documentary Photography
December 2008


My inspiration for this project came from the tragic problem of puppy mills and pet overpopulation in the United States. Thus, I began with the idea to photograph animal shelters. After leaving voice messages and e-mailing several local organizations in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area, I struck gold. The Neuse River Golden Retriever Rescue contacted me immediately, and the volunteers were thrilled about the idea of my project. So, rather than photographing a specific shelter, I realized this organization would give me the opportunity to follow one dog’s journey throughout the course of the semester.


When I first started my project I struggled to find a specific angle, so I just photographed as much as possible at a foster home in Raleigh and at one of the Rescue’s Adopt-A-Thons. However, when I received a call about a 5-week-old puppy and his upcoming rescue, I realized the story had just fallen into my lap. And a few days later the story literally sat in my lap as I cuddled baby Orion. The Neuse River organization invited me to tag along to the Johnston County Animal Shelter, where we picked up Orion, and then went on to the Glenwood Animal Hospital. I continued to photograph the pup at his Adopt-A-Thon debut and twice in his foster home.
Photographing dogs proved to be a challenge at times because puppies like Orion never quite sit still. But, over the course of the project I managed to take over 1000 photographs. When it came time to edit for my final slideshow, the real challenge became to make sure that I include images that capture the narrative in addition to just the “cute” photographs…and I sure had a lot of cute ones to weed through as well.

In the end, the people I met that volunteer with the Neuse River Golden Retriever Rescue had the biggest impact on me. They are an eclectic bunch, but their dedication to helping Goldens speaks volumes about the depth of their love for dogs and their kind hearts. Volunteers such as Jen Webster, Laurie Nuhn, Betty Lallier, and Jim O’Brien opened their arms to me, and this project would not have been possible without their enthusiastic help. Jim showed me that volunteering in an organization like the Rescue is about more than just saving dogs. To him, the satisfaction of helping to build families and bridge friendships is what makes all the hassle and chaos worthwhile. Therefore, I am very pleased with the final product in large part because I hope the Rescue will take pride in what I have created.