Thursday, November 8, 2012

If Looks Could Kill

"She looks so mean, I'm sure she is sweet but if looks could kill!" - Facebook user


The above photo was once Athena's "mugshot" while she was held at the county animal jail shelter.  We never saw this photo prior to adopting Athena (see her adoption story here).

The shelter where we adopted Athena from has a tradition of posting each dog's "mugshot" to their Facebook page as soon as the animal gets adopted.  After bringing Athena home, I stalked the shelter's Facebook page hourly as I waited for her picture to be posted in celebration of her adoption.  Once finally posted, many of the shelter's Facebook fans commented and congratulated Athena on finding her forever home (for the second time).  Alongside the many positive comments came this comment: "She looks so mean, I'm sure she is sweet but if looks could kill!"

My heart was breaking inside as I read the comment over and over.  I stared at the photo and tried to find the meanness that this person saw in Athena, but all I could find in her face was fear.

I will admit that the comment offended me, because obviously Athena is not a mean dog.  The more that I thought about the comment, the more that I realized just how many shelter animals are often overlooked due to their one photo that is listed on a shelter's website.  Many dogs don't stay at a shelter long enough to receive a biography written about them and therefore their mugshot is all that they have to lure a potential adopter in to meet them.

Would B and I have driven out to the shelter to meet Athena if all that we had seen was the above photo?  I'm not sure.  All I know is that Athena has brought so much happiness into our lives and as I look through the hundreds of pictures that we have taken of her the past few months, I don't see a mean or fearful dog.  I see a dog who knows that she is home and that we will love her forever.





31 comments:

  1. Great pictures!

    It took Mushroom about 2 months before she realized she was home. We can't really expect dogs in shelters to look happy.

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  2. In her 'mug shot' I see a fearful, high alert dog who what's to know what the heck is going on, why she's tied up to a wall, wondering what all the barking is about. She looks tense which is probably why that person said she looked 'mean' plus her dark coloring doesn't help. Now if she had the next picture up as her shelter photo she would have been adopted easier (lucky for you she wasn't). A picture tells only one side of a dog. Many people base thier opinion of a dog based on that (a sad fact). I adopted Trinity based on one picture and tons of questions. But Kylie was on one picture of her unique body and hours upon hours of talking to her rescuer/foster mom about her. I think that shelter/resue pictures need to show multipul sides of the dog not just one. It also helps to have a super happy, relaxed dog while taking a picture.

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  3. She looks very tense. I think people not familiar with dogs think that all hard eyes are meanness or aggression, when more often, they are from a dog shutting down from fear. Everything about her ear set and posture in that picture says that she is not comfortable.

    I do love that in the photos you have taken, Athena is in the same poses I get so often with Koira. Classic pittie poses I guess!

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    1. Pitties do seem to have similar poses in many of their pictures =) I love it!

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  4. This is a huge issue for so many shelters and rescues that are now using the internet and Facebook to get attention for their animals. One of my clients is actually an organization named HeARTs Speak, Inc. whose sole purpose is to bring together photographers and other artists and provide them with support and resources for working with shelters and rescues on this very thing. Their beautiful photos show the personalities of the dogs and cats and other species and have resulted in a lot of incredible adoptions. You can check them out at their website www.hearsspeak.org or on their Facebook page! The Before and Afters are pretty incredible.

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    1. Oops, that's www.heartsspeak.org. Forgot the 't'.

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    2. Wow! What an amazing resource! Thank you so much for sharing!

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  5. Athena is such a pretty girl, and "mug shot" is exactly the right phrase for that picture. The look in her eyes is so heartbreaking. I see confusion, sadness almost dispair, resignation even. I sometimes hesitate to post certain pictures of Ray, fearing that it will add to the mean pit bull image, like when he has his big mouth open and teeth showing ready to grab a toy.
    Luckily you have your fancy dancy new camera and a beautiful model to showcase now.

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    1. I'm the same as you. Sometimes I hesitate to post some of Athena's pictures when her big ole' jaw is being showcased! But, usually I think twice and decide to post it anyways!

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  6. Shelters are so understaffed and underfunded, they usually don't have the resources to take high quality photos of the dogs who come in. That is so unfortunate because, like you said, many dogs ARE overlooked because they have a bad mugshot. It sucks. But I am sure glad that you saw something in Athena and adopted her because she has brought you so much joy and turned you into a pittie advocate (and my friend)! She has already done so much in the short time she has been with you - I love Athena! :)

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    1. I totally agree with you, Emily. Shelters do the best that they can with the resources that they have. It is so nice when volunteers help to take beautiful pictures of the animals to showcase their personalities =) Maybe once I figure out how to properly use my new camera I can volunteer my services!

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  7. I agree with you on seeing only fear, no meanness. Thank goodness Athena found you guys and you guys found a fancy schmancy new camera that will perfectly capture all aspects of her wonderful personality and share it with us. :)

    I feel sorry for the person who saw mean - imagine how much they miss out on by mistaking fear for mean or aggressive or whatever. They'll never get to receive Athena's kisses or see her romp with her Chuckit or conquer her fears. You guys have such a fuller life now because you choose to see good. Kudos to you!

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    1. I also feel sorry for the person who saw the meanness in Athena. I wish that they could see her now =)

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  8. One of the things we have at our humane society is a dedicated staff of volunteers who take photos of the dogs and write up a bio for them. It's better than just a mugshot and people can see the dogs interacting with someone or a toy or treat. There are even professional photographers who donate their time to get better pictures in hopes to get the animals adopted... believe me when I say the right picture can make a huge difference but so can a bad one!

    I don't think Athena looks mean, I think she looks a little lost and confused... people don't always think about that when looking at shelter pets.

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    1. It's so nice when shelters have volunteers to take pictures of the animals. I can definitely tell the shelters in our area who are fortunate enough to have this kind of help. It really shows in the animal's photos and biographies.

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    2. The Wichita shelter is AMAZING with their photos! I took a tour of their facility and follow them on FB. What they do is so great - and they have amazing adoption numbers to show that what they are doing works!

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  9. She looks "mean" because she has a big triangle head. That is why people think I look "mean" too. Just today someone told my mom, "I bet no one messes with you while you're walking him around!" They sure don't, not if they don't want their face licked off!

    But puppy jails need to do a better job of taking nice pictures. The one that I was in has volunteers use pretty backgrounds and try to make the pups look happy. I wish more puppy jails understood how a good picture can be the difference between life and, well, you know what, for dog. Especially for dogs like us...

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    1. Remy, we have heard those same words before. Many people think that Athena is not a dog to be messed with, when really she is just a big snuggle bug!

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  10. I'll never understand why shelters post photos like this. I know they can be busy and overrun, but decent photos are a key thing to getting those animals out of there! There are often photos of them still on their cages, maybe that helps with pity factor?

    I've often thought about going to some local shelters and taking photos of the animals for them. Maybe it's time to do it!

    PS: I love it that you stalked the shelter's facebook to wait for the adopted picture to be posted, I did the same thing! That was how I found the baby puppy pictures of Kaya in the shopping cart. The shelter Norman came from has a high kill-rate and they don't even have a facebook page or a petfinder. They often don't even post any photos online, but they post the date the dog has 'til it's gone:(

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    1. I'm with you- I think it will soon be time for me to help out some shelters in the picture department!

      That's so sad about Norman's shelter!

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    2. I know! Maybe that's the shelter I need to go to. I think with your spiffy new camera, you could take a lot of winning shots:D

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    3. well...have either of you gotten down to the shelters yet? It IS 2013!!
      :-)

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    4. I haven't gotten down to a shelter yet....but hopefully I will get a chance to volunteer at some point this year! =)

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  11. Um, what? Yeah, it's a mug shot, but Athena's look doesn't seem mean at all. She looks worried and sweet. People are weird.
    Personally I hate the darn cinder block wall and yellow rope lead, it completely looks like she was in dog jail. Definitely agree with getting better pictures of shelter dogs out there, hmmm, not a bad reason to upgrade to a DSLR... :)

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  12. Sometimes when I share pictures of my dogs people say, "Oh wow, well they're cute but I'd be scared if I saw them on the street!" I'm like reallllly? We all know and love our pups so well it's hard to imagine someone being scared but I remember I was once a silly girl afraid of even tiny dogs!

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