My latest portrait session was with Sera, a 3 year old bundle of joy who was adopted from Austin Pets Alive! Sera was at APA for far too long - over 500 days. Thankfully, that wasn't anywhere near the end of her story. Thanks to the efforts of the committed staff and volunteers at APA, and most of all, the initiative and open-mindedness of this wonderful family, Sera found a loving and supportive home. 

I didn't know Sera when she was at APA, but I learned a lot about the things that she has been working on in her new home, and during our portrait session her progress was very evident. For instance, Jenny, one of Sera's people, reports that Sera's "threshold" - or the distance she can be from other dogs while on leash without getting overly excited or barking - has improved dramatically and that she is calmer when left alone at home than she was at first. 

I was really struck by Jenny's level of knowledge about Sera and about the behavioral patterns that Sera has demonstrated in the past. Jenny felt a connection to Sera immediately when they first met, and this bond has really grown over the course of their relationship. Having a permanent bond with a caring human is such a wonderful thing for a dog, but that's not the only way in which Sera is lucky. Jenny's knowledge of Sera empowers Sera to live a rich and full life in many ways. Sure - Sera does not like most dogs. But she is wonderful with people, she is doing well in her training, and she brings immeasurable joy to the lives of her people. 

People like Jenny are one of the big reasons that shelter's like APA work. Dogs are complex. Every dog has one area or another where they could use some work. Instead of paying attention exclusively to one detail about a dog - in this case that Sera doesn't like to hang out with other dogs - Jenny took notice of the bigger picture. There is a lot to love about Sera. And there is a growing community of people who recognize that "a lot to love" outweighs "a little bit that needs work."

Scroll down to see some of the portraits we made during the session. All of the quotes featured below are from Sera's person Jenny.

She loves being outside, anywhere. She is very active and loves to run around! She loves rolling around in the grass, eating the grass, anything and everything that involves the grass. She is a big crazy goofball, and loves every single human she comes in contact with.
It was like paparazzi when I went to get her. They made me schedule a time to come pick her up to make sure that people would get to be there.
We just hit it off right away. I imagine if I was a dog I would be her.
Dogs have issues just like humans do. Humans are a little bit crazy. All she’s known is the shelter so obviously it took a lot of adapting. She’s a lot calmer now.

At Taurus Academy

Last week I had the privilege to work with some of the wonderful and well-cared for animals at Austin's own Taurus Academy. Taurus is opening a beautiful brand new location on Burnet Road which will offer their specialized daycare and boarding services as well as their incredible board-and-train program for obedience and energy management. The canine portraits from this series will be featured in the lobby at Taurus Burnet, and I couldn't be more thrilled.

My own dog, Charlie, can personally vouch for Taurus's skill in socializing dogs. When I adopted him 5 years ago, he was shy and reticent around other dogs, and on his first trip into the play yards at Taurus he skirted the edges of the yard with his hackles up. Anyone who knows Charlie can tell you how far he's come since then. His time in playday at Taurus allowed his gregarious, very dog-social personality to come out, and both he and I are forever thankful for it.

The grand opening of the new location on 4400 Burnet Road is on June 14th and anyone who RSVPs to their Grand Opening Party will be entered to win a Custom Canine Photo Session with Ryan Plunkett Photography, as well as some other great prizes.

You can RSVP to the Grand Opening here:

And you can find out more about Taurus Academy here:

Scroll down to see some of the photographs the Taurus pups and I made and make sure to check out the Taurus Burnet Grand Opening to see the prints!


Outside of the shelter there is a whole world to explore. In my work with Vickie this week I couldn't escape the temptation to project my thoughts on to her. And that is what I would have been thinking if I was her. Outside of the shelter there is this whole world of smells and sights and people. How amazing.  She sniffed every flower and every tree that may have been marked by some other dog. She leaned her head back and put her nose into the wind. She nuzzled her foster person. She could not get enough. 

Vickie, unfortunately, has been at Austin Pets Alive! for far too long. In fact, only one other current dog has been with APA for longer. And while that has surely been hard for Vickie, things are looking up. One virtue of the length of her stay is that she has had hundreds of hours of training by the expert behavioral staff and the volunteers at APA. She walks wonderfully on leash and she is being the perfect guest at her current foster home.  She's house trained. She's crate trained. She loves meeting new people.

Vickie is beloved at the shelter, and by her volunteers, and by anyone who meets her. She has a wonderful foster person taking care of her and giving her the opportunity to experience life outside of the shelter. And now she needs your help to take the next step. She needs a home for the rest of forever. To go outside. To explore.

Check out Vickie's profile on the APA website here:


Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That’s the problem.
— A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

I'll let Winnie speak for herself. All she needs is a place to sleep and a human to talk to. In return, she'll fill your days with wonderful conversations. Go visit her at APA! and check out her bio here:



This week, I had a chance to spend some time photographing Mercury, who you see here, and who is available for adoption at Austin Pets Alive! 

While I was crawling around with him, I got to thinking: I like being around dogs, in large part, because it makes me feel more readily the primal things within me. Those things that are animal about being human. All of the rolling around on the ground and getting filthy goes some way towards this, but watching a dog be an animal is what really brings this feeling to the surface. 

And that's where Mercury comes in. Mercury loves fetch. I mean really loves it. And fetch, to me, is such a beautiful thing because it is both one of the most seemingly domestic and ordinary things we do with dogs and at the same time one of the most instantly recognizable as instinctual. The thrill and necessity and drama of the chase, all bottled up neatly in a game.

Here is the photo essay Mercury and I made about our game of fetch. Followed by some info on how you can make Mercury yours and make yourself Mercury's. 


Mercury would love to come to your home and endearingly and incessantly request a good game of fetch.

You can see Mercury's page on the APA! website here:


The main difference between animal emotions and human emotions is that animals don’t have mixed emotions the way normal people do. Animals arn’t ambivalent; they don’t have love-hate relationships with each other or with people. That’s one of the reasons humans love animals so much; animals are loyal. If an animal loves you he loves you no matter what. He doesn’t care what you look like or how much money you make.
— Temple Grandin

This little peach is Elle.  I knew her for quite a while before I truly appreciated how amazing she is. This is a phenomenon that, unfortunately, happens too frequently with dogs. I had seen Elle's reactivity on leash (barking and growling and pulling toward other dogs) and I had seen her selectivity in the play yard with other dogs, but I had never got the full picture of her. I had never spent time with her in other settings, and when I did I saw something amazing; something people who work in dog behavior see every day. While her on-leash reactivity and mixed interactions with other dogs are very real, they are isolated behaviors. As many of you know, just because a dog doesn't get along with other dogs doesn't mean that they don't get along with humans. And just because a dog doesn't get along with a certain dog or doesn't get along with dogs in certain situations doesn't mean that there arn't other circumstances in which that dog could get along with other dogs. IN FACT (and this is my favorite part) the same two dogs that are lunging and growling at each other on leash will sometimes demonstrate healthy play with each other minutes later. We see it every day.

Elle is a perfect example of these concepts in action. You need only spend a few minutes with her to realize that for all her bluster on leash she is incredibly affectionate. She is calm and measured. She is a complex and astoundingly beautiful animal that needs a little bit of help finding the right circumstances for happiness.

For more information on adopting Elle, check out her profile page on the APA! website here:

Or better yet, head down to Austin Pets Alive! and spend a few moments with Elle. You won't regret it.


This here is Melvin, a goofball in need of a home. But not just any home will do. He does not get along well with non-human animals, so he needs a home with no dogs or cats. He is the patron saint of snuggling, so he needs a home that is pro-snuggling. He is a gigantic dork, so he needs a home that will embrace his dorkitude with love and grace.  As you can see, he loves to swim and gallivant and make endearing facial expressions.

Give in to the cute attack that is Melvin.

You can visit him at Austin Pets Alive! in at 1156 W Cesar Chavez St.

Or check out his info page on the APA1 website here:


Behold the gorgeousness that is Morgan. Morgan is bilaterally deaf, meaning that she is completely deaf in both ears. One thing I really love about doing these sessions with shelter dogs is that it gives me a chance to take a step back and think about the experience that each dog has in the shelter. In Morgan's case, this was an especially interesting thought experiment. The barking and loud voices and other racket that are such a familiar part of the kennel environment can be a lot for almost any dog to handle. But not Morgan. I often see her snoozing in her kennel in the early hours of the morning, the sun streaming through the chain-link door to her kennel, all the while her neighbor dogs barking and shrieking and clanging. Are her other senses heightened? I don't know. But I can say that they are certainly used more exclusively. Dogs do much of their communication via body language and other non-verbal communication regardless of whether or not they can hear, and since Morgan has no way of knowing that there are even sounds to be heard in the world, it's seems that she wouldn't miss them. She has her own fluency with the world around her. In this way, deafness is not as much a thing ABOUT Morgan as it is a thing OF Morgan. She's an animal. I'm an animal. We romp and play and snarl and sense.

And so Morgan I braved the cold and the rain and made these photographs for you all.

Morgan is available for adoption at Austin Pets Alive! in Austin, TX. You can find Morgan's profile on the APA! website here:

Acacia and Oscar

Taking photographs in the shelter environment so frequently over the last month has been an amazing experience in so many ways. While Austin Pets Alive! is truly excellent at what it does, the reality is always present that an animal shelter is only the best place for any dog in that it is better than any of their other options, at least at that time. In this way progressive no-kill shelters like APA! are not locations as much as they are vehicles enabling a better life for these animals upon adoption while simultaneously providing the best life possible under the circumstances and limitations of the shelter environment. This concept has been at the front of my mind in recent days; the idea that the shelter is not a home, even for dogs that, despite the best efforts of all whom are involved, stay for years at a time. In this way, even though all of these dogs have expert medical and behavioral and wellness care, they are still homeless. They do not have homes. And while all of that, at a glance, could be seen as a negative perspective on the no-kill movement, I think it is just the opposite. It is vital that all of us involved in this movement remember and act on the fact that these dogs are not at home; they are on the way to their homes. Shelters are a powerful and effective mechanism for empowering these animals and enabling their future happiness.

Every day I am shown, over and over, in the faces of countless kind-hearted humans, the actualization of these concepts. My latest photo essay highlights one amazing aspect of the care that is provided for the animals that are staying at Austin Pets Alive! Oscar, the lovely bespeckled pup you see above, was the subject of my last portrait session for this blog. After I posted the pictures from that session I had a chance to meet Acacia, a volunteer who fostered Oscar for some time and now frequently visits him at APA! and takes him for sleepovers outside of the shelter. Volunteers like Acacia provide enrichment for these dogs in ways that are not possible within the shelter. After working with Oscar and the other dogs so much within the shelter, it was such a joy to see him in a different environment. He splashed around in the creek at the Big Stacy Park. He dunked his head under the water. He rested on the grass and the fallen leaves and chomped and chomped a tennis ball to his heart's content. And then he went home with a caring human, to sleep in a warm house and relax and take comfort. The shelter is a good place. It is good for these dogs and it is good for the community. But there is no substitute for a home; even for a night.

You can find Oscar's details and adoption info here:


Oscar is the latest in my portrait series focusing on dogs that are eligible for adoption at Austin Pets Alive! I have long been fascinated with canine eyes. Oscar's particularly beautiful eyes got me thinking about what has caused this fascination. Part of it, surely, is anthropomorphism. When I can see a dogs eyes clearly in a photograph, I suffer from that common affliction of dog lovers that leads me to see the dog as somehow partly human. There's more to it than that, though. From a training and behavior perspective, eye contact is certainly important. Trainers ask dogs for eye contact because it indicates that a trainer has the dogs attention. With attention, a trainer can then ask the dog to sit, or to go, or a variety of other things. Beyond that, dogs themselves communicate their eyes, both to each other and to humans. "Wall-eye," as dog folks often call it, can be an indicator that a dog is anxious or asking another animal to calm down or back off. Dogs can appear wide-eyed when they are overstimulated or on-edge. The examples go on and on. Ultimately, eyes are also just a thing of beauty and a signifier of uniqueness, and in that way, I think a comfort to the human animal. I'd love to hear you thoughts on canine eyes.

Voices: Jess B.

This week I had to chance to sit down with Jess B., the Dog Walking Lead Volunteer at Austin Pets Alive! As regulars at the shelter know, Jess is absolutely tireless in her efforts to provide the best care possible to the dogs while they are waiting for adoption. We discussed the past, present and future of APA! and what current and new volunteers can do to advance the No-Kill mission in Austin.

Sorullo and Brock are featured in these photographs.

You can find out more about Sorullo here:

You can find out more about Brock here:

You can find out more about volunteering at APA! here:

Jess and Brock bond during an afternoon walk.

I started almost three years ago in June. I’d always wanted to volunteer with an animal shelter, but just never had the time. You start seeing what the needs are. A huge need is there are no weekday walkers because everyone has to work, so that’s the first thing you do. People say somebody else should be doing this. I never think that. I think ‘this needs to be done and I’m capable of doing it so why don’t I just do it.’

Jess and Brock share a quiet moment.

Austin couldn’t be no-kill if we didn’t save dogs with behavior problems. But APA! has playgroup, and that’s what saves lives. The fact that we get most of our dogs out for socialization and play and exercise twice a day is what is saving lives here.

Sorullo and Jess working on sits on  the Ladybird Lake trail. 

[This work] is important to me. If you don’t like something, then you have to change it yourself. You have to come in. You have to come walk a dog. You have to be their advocates. If anything, that’s where we are falling down right now, we’re not advocates for these dogs. We think ‘our job is to come in and walk 50 dogs and then go home.’ But I think, ‘No, you have to go home and say hey I met this great dog today. It does this, it does that. It’s great with kids. Are you looking for a dog?’ And tell your friends and share them in social media. If no one out there in the world knows that there are 160 dogs waiting for them, then how are they ever going to get adopted?

Sorullo cannot wait a moment longer for a reward for his sit. Volunteers like Jess work to condition the dogs to manage their energy is stressful and exciting situations.

We have 200 dog volunteers that come through every month. That’s a lot of volunteers. And we want to maximize our time. APA is one of the few shelters where you can do your community service restitution. Nobody else does sleepovers. Nobody else does trail work. Nobody else has a jog-a-dog program. It’s very innovative.

Volunteers take dogs on walks to the play yards within the Austin Pets Alive! campus. Here, Brock plays fetch with Jess is one of the larger yards. The exercise and human contact that these walks provide are essential aspects of  APA's mission to ensure the well-being of animals while they are in the shelter.

Sometimes a dog will be on the attention list [at another shelter] because they’re jumping in the kennel and they’re mouthing on people’s arms. But we think ‘oh, that’s a blue [collar] dog.’ And then we train our volunteers to take out that dog with those specific behaviors so they can do it safely and help curb those behaviors.

Sorullo, slowly but surely, is picking up on the training imparted to him by the volunteers and staff. Here, he waits patiently for Jess to release him to continue down the trail.

Austin is a very unique city and every time we ask for help the city steps up and helps us. I don’t know if there are other cities that have that type of culture to do the things we do.

Sorullo is rewarded for re-focusing on Jess after a dog passes on the trail.

Blue Meadow

One of the first sights each and every morning for the Adoption Counselors at Austin Pets Alive! is the wiggling. loving presence of Blue Meadow, who often stays in one of the offices overnight. She's known to APA! visitors for her exuberance in her kennel, but she's actually quite calm when she's given the opportunity and settles in for much of the day, snuggling on her kuranda bed while the staff and volunteers go about their work. Blue Meadow's fan base is so deep that she even has her own Facebook Page and website! And while she would love for you to check out her web presence, she would like it so much more if you paid her a visit.


Today in the drizzle at the life-saving institution that is Austin Pets Alive, I had the opportunity to spend quite some time with the beautiful animal featured above. His name is Loverboy, and while no, he is most certainly not winking, there are many other notable things to be known about him. His ears, for one, form some sort of triangulation with his head that is of an adorable and irresistible design. One flips, pointing toward the sky as what I can only assume is a beacon of love, and the other, well the other flops. Should all of this cuteness and flipping and flopping draw you in, it is well worth knowing that he has been expertly trained in obedience by the behavior staff and the volunteers at APA! In this capacity he is really more of a Lovergentleman than he is a Loverboy. Regardless, he demonstrated his manners well in the time he and I were making these photographs. He walks well on leash, he doesn't jump, he sits to take treats and the rumors are that he has a variety of tricks he will perform for further treats. The behavior staff at APA! has determined that he would do best in a home with no other dogs, but if you were to make friends with Loverboy, the likelihood is that you would need nothing else, dogs included. 

For more info on Loverboy, visit him at Austin Pets Alive! on Cesar Chavez and check out his profile here: 


This is Lucky. I had the pleasure of working with him in all his exuberant glory today at Austin Pets Alive!. Among the many very interesting aspects of Lucky's personality is his preternatural drive to seek out tennis balls. He is famous at APA! for his ability and inclination to hold two (or more) tennis balls in his mouth at a time, and can often be seen sauntering back to his kennel with his latest neon green conquest(s). He is so strongly motivated to seek and find that the behavior staff at APA! has identified him as an ideal candidate to be trained as a cadaver/bomb/drug sniffing dog. In the meantime, he's available for adoption! Must love tennis balls and adventures. You can find out more about Lucky here:

Austin Pets Alive!

I'm proud to announce that I will be partnering with the no-kill animal shelter Austin Pets Alive! to produce portraits of dogs that are currently at the shelter and are in need of foster homes and adoption. APA is by many measures the best animal shelter in the country, saving nearly 7,000 animals last year, the large majority of which were on so-called "euthanasia" lists at other shelters. Also, due to the efforts of APA and its supporters, Austin is now the largest no-kill city in the United States.

The portrait here is of the beautiful and vivacious Kingsley. You can find out more about him here:


Elvis is a beautiful older pup that I had the pleasure of working with earlier this week. I always feel lucky when I get to work with older dogs. I am fascinated by the interactions between dogs and humans, and seeing the intuitive, fluent way Elvis interacts with the other species was a wonderful experience.


We had an amazing day out at Turkey Creek. Gus is such a beautiful animal and he has such a nuanced and rich personality. I was really struck by the bond Gus has with his guardian. He checked in with her constantly through the brambles and the pools in the stream and they communicated almost entirely with body language and movement. The symbiotic relationship between dog and human is so familiar to us that it sometimes takes looking through a different lens to rediscover its wonder. And so we all rambled through the woods and these are the photographs we made.


Welcome to the new home for Ryan Plunkett Photography! We've already worked with so many wonderful folks and pups throughout Austin, and we're looking forward to much more. I'll be blogging here about my photo sessions, dog behavior and evolutionary science, and other things dog and dog adventure. 

This website is a representation of my company, Ryan Plunkett Photography, of course, but it's also a representation of my passion for dogs and the time I get to spend with them in my work. I think of each session as a little dance with a dog, and here I'll be sharing what me and the dogs come up with, in our dances in the mud and rivers and swamps and alleys.