Cindy Zurowick is a veteran volunteer at Save the Animals Foundation (STAF) in Cincinnati. She has been a hero to many a dog and volunteer alike, sharing her wealth of knowledge and compassion with all around her. Cindy has an amazing ability to capture the essence of adoptable STAF dogs and her pictures have been instrumental in driving increased adoption traffic to STAF. We asked her to let us know what it’s like to photograph the dogs and what volunteering at STAF means to her.
I began volunteering with STAF in late 1997. I had always wanted to help neglected, discarded and unwanted animals, and with STAF being no-kill and completely run by volunteers, I thought this could be a good fit. Almost seventeen years and thousands of successful adoptions later, I am happy to say it has been a very good fit.
I have always loved photography. In 1998, before digital photography, Petfinder, and with the Internet still in its infancy, I wondered how I could use my photography to help animals find homes. I began by taking photos of the abandoned cats in my neighborhood. I had the cats vet checked, spayed/neutered and I created posters that I put up in pet food stores, vet offices and in the lunch rooms of local businesses. In my first year I was able to place twenty-six cats into loving homes and I still receive updates from some of these homes with the youngest of these original cats now almost 16 years old!
I then began taking photos of the STAF cats and dogs, initially to record and track who was who at the shelter, and then the photos began to be used for posters at fundraisers and open houses.
With the onset on the Internet, email and then Petfinder, came the ability to publicize and network animals in need with the hope of finding them their forever home. This is when I started to take a lot of photos.
Almost all of the photos I have taken of the STAF dogs are taken while I am alone with the dog. Many dogs are camera-shy so I try to set up a calm atmosphere in hopes of the dog being comfortable enough to let their guard down, relax and allow me to capture their “inner” dog :o. My goal is to get to know the dog before photographing and hopefully present the dog’s past, present and dreams for the future in the final photos.
I have photographed some very heartbreaking dogs that have survived gut-wrenching abuse and neglect. I will never understand how they do it, but most have been able to move on to enjoy and savor the love and kindness of humans in their new homes. Animals can be so forgiving.
Just like people, beyond a certain age almost every shelter dog has some “baggage.” Through the time spent with shelter dogs, I have learned to be very respectful of every dog I meet and to take time to observe their body posture, the look in their eyes and I always let them decide if we are going to be friends and if I am someone they can trust. All good relationships – whether they be human, canine or feline – take time to develop and all will have ups and downs.
I love the Project Blue Collar message. So I decided to photograph and highlight some of the STAF Underdogs wearing the Blue Collar. The goal is not only to help these wonderful dogs finally find their so-deserved loving and devoted homes, but also to show support for all the Underdogs, the Underdog caregivers and to all who support the Underdogs and the Rescue Movement. Thank you Project Blue Collar!