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: