In honor of national volunteer week …….
Behind all the wonderful pictures, there is a great volunteer coaxing, pleading and handling the animal. I have worked with many different volunteers at the shelter. There is always this one thing – they all love animals. Truly that is the main requirement. It is my job to instruct them on the best way to handle the animals for pictures.
Each volunteer is as different as each animal. I am never guaranteed the same person twice. So I have learned to give a set of instructions that is clear and concise. When I photograph the large dogs I want them to bring the dog from the kennel to the play area and stand to the side. I always want to see if the dog will respond first to me and only me as I have the camera. Then if they need a little coaxing I want the volunteer right over my shoulder with a treat. I prefer to get the dog and only the dog, no leash, no people but that just doesn’t always work. So on occasion a volunteer will slip into the photos (see Elaine in the previous post).
Then when we move to the puppies ….. oh puppies. For me these are the hardest to do. We can not take them outside because of parvo risk, so the behavior suite is the only option for these guys. Sometimes we will try the kitty studio for the smallest of the puppies but usually they are too rambunctious and big for such containment. Our best strategy has been to let them wind themselves down a little and then try to get some shots. This requires time and patience.
The cats seem to be the easiest for the volunteers to get the hang of. Again it is helpful to have them handling the cats – getting them from the cage and to the kitty studio and back to their cages. But during the session they end up providing essential blocking for jumpers. For the jaded cat that needs a little stimulation. The handler helps by using a toy, feather or string toy to get a reaction from the cat. I usually tell them to get it as close to my face as possible. This put me very close being swatted, but also get me closer to eye contact.
Some cats even decide that the volunteers are just as good as any tree. Did I mention that volunteers need a sense of humor? Disclaimer: No volunteers were harmed in these photos.
Having a good handler that is able to wrangle the big dogs, wind down a puppy and be gentle enough with the sweet kitties is vital. It is one of the hardest jobs for volunteers. These are great folks that earn my appreciation everyday. I owe the great photos to all their hard work behind the scenes. Thank you!