the end of a tradition ~ {Ontario pet photographer}

it’s with great sadness and regret that i write this blog entry … and it is not my intent to wane negative, but rather to turn this around and find a new and exciting outlet for the big chunk of ‘giving back’ that has been the backbone of scruffy dog photography since its creation five years ago.  unfortunately, first i must lay down the facts and reasons as to why i am currently looking for a new outlet.

most pet photographers i know do something to give back to rescue.  the majority of them selflessly photograph dogs in shelters and for rescue organizations to better their chances of adoption.  this is a time-consuming and heartfelt endeavor.  it is so much more than clicking a shutter and handing over some photos.  homeless pets aren’t always the easiest to work with — many are lost and disconnected as their lives hang in limbo.  some have been abandoned, others have never known a true home.  working with these souls is hard on an emotional level, but it also takes a chunk out of a photographer’s schedule.  it is traveling, setting up, working with the individual animals, and then sorting and editing, presentation, not to mention the wear and tear on costly equipment.  and this is where it should also be known that the majority of photographers do not make a ton of money … so any time taken away from paying clients is precious time.

i hear stories of some rescue organizations not really appreciating these selfless, hardworking photographers, taking advantage, undermining, breaking promises … and sure, i’ve been burned myself … but not until this year have i felt truly used and unappreciated by an organization i have given so much to.

for the past four years i have given three weeks of every year to a local shelter … three full weeks.  in these three weeks i photograph formerly adopted pets — each having won their place in the annual fundraising calendar through a contest — so that their images can grace the pages of the artistic calendar.  sure, twelve short sessions shouldn’t take three weeks, but along with the shooting, editing, and prepping for print, there is the organizing of these sessions, driving around, dealing with rain dates, contact time with the participants as well as with the shelter, and then the laying out and designing of the calendar … although this year i roped my fabulous web-designer Sarah of The Design Truth to handle the layout and design since the busy fall season conflicts with the period of time the organization is finally ready to provide calendar information for the layout.

by giving these three weeks of every year, donating my photography and design services, i am foregoing thousands of dollars of client work … but please know that i’m not complaining!  it is a sacrifice that i, and many other pet photographers, gladly make for the animals!  i do it because i’ve always had rescue pets and rescue is very close to my heart … in fact, it IS my heart.  besides the myriad of other things scruffy dog does throughout the year — photographing fosters, offering donations and silent auction gifts to different charities, pro bono sessions, etc. — my ultimate goal with scruffy dog’s giving back is, always, to do something that can make the greatest impact.  what this means is: raise money and raise awareness.

for me, the shelter calendar seemed a good fit for that, especially once i was finally able to convince shelter administration that we should focus the calendar on adopted pets specifically.

however, sadly, this year, with a change in the shelter’s administration, that ‘fit’ is no longer there.

where once the calendar was treated as a ‘partnership’ between SDP and the shelter and there was clear respect and appreciation for the weeks of work donated each year, today there is none … and i am left feeling like some employee (an unpaid one, of course).  promises made over the years by those who formerly handled the calendar were squashed, in spite of the fact that i’d already organized and shot the entire 2013 calendar under the assumption that this year would be handled like every other.  the process was fraught with tension, insults, and one-sided authority instead of anything that remotely resembled a partnership or recognition of the great efforts my business has made for the good of their organization for the past four years.

throughout the final process of this year’s calendar, scruffy dog has been kept entirely out of the loop. in fact, i wasn’t even informed when the calendars were finally ready for purchase in spite of the fact that in past years, SDP has sold our fair share of calendars to followers and fans.

and through this all,  i have waited for even the smallest sign of appreciation.  but … nothing.

instead, scruffy dog’s involvement has been completely stripped from any kind of press release and social media regarding the calendar, in spite of my request that scruffy dog — as well as Sarah from The Design Truth — be mentioned as it has in past years.  we’re not talking fanfare and billboards!  just the simple one line mention, with a nod of appreciation, that has formerly been attached to all PR and announcements surrounding the calendar, a little support to a small one-person business for their dedication through the years.

of course, some might suggest that this mention of appreciation shouldn’t matter … that i should be happy i’m helping the pets at the shelter (or helping to pay the wages of those who have shown no appreciation).  scruffy dog shouldn’t have to be credited, right?

well, folks, there’s selflessness and then there’s survival … and trying to make a living as a pet-exclusive photographer (or any kind of photographer) is not an easy road, nor an enormously prosperous one.  please understand this: in order for any working photographer to actually give the time each year to take on a project of this size in the midst of a busy schedule and trying to make a living at photography, they need to have a project of this proportion at least build a little brand recognition on the off-chance that it could garner a few bookings to help offset the financial loss in taking on the project.  i’ll admit, in the four years of shooting the calendar, three calendar winners did book proper sessions, and i have gotten one or two bookings from clients who said that one of the sources from which they learned about scruffy dog was through the calendar.  but this doesn’t come anywhere close to covering the losses, and anyone with an iota of business sense can tell you right off that this is not a good venture from the business’s perspective, no matter how you cut it. BUT …

… that’s okay!  i continued to do the calendar every year because it paid me in a different way.  still, without some kind of benefit to the business, however small, it doesn’t make business sense … and if a business fails how can it possibly do more charity work to help the animals? and honestly now, the only thing most of us photographers are after is a nod of appreciation, a credit given, and maybe feeling like we’re actually a partner in this venture, not some unpaid ’employee’ that can be bossed around or have their integrity questioned at every turn.

this decision has been an immensely difficult one.  but i simply cannot continue what i had seen as a tradition, as a partnership, as a wonderful and community-oriented part of my small business.  this will be the last year scruffy dog will organize, shoot and layout this organization’s calendar.  my efforts need to be directed to a more cooperative, respectful organization, where the hours, days and weeks of my commitment are recognized and appreciated, and where they can do the most good for everyone involved.

i want to hear from you … i want to hear your ideas and am open to any way that you think scruffy dog can help out.  of course, the goal is to find or create a project that will raise the most funds and awareness possible, whether that is locally or globally.  although i am already in preliminary talks with an amazing rescue organization with whom i’ve had a connection for years, i look forward to hearing from individuals and organizations on other ideas.  scruffy dog is here to do whatever it takes to make the greatest impact, to raise the most money and awareness, for the individual homeless pet and the collective whole.

 

  

Neil Sarginson - Great work, will add Guelph Humane Society really does need some positive press, this could be a good fit. Go online and search for their history over the last couple of years

sandraspencer64 - scruffy dog photography Fantastic! You would make our Christmas! We have had such a stressful time right now trying to rescue some precious angels. I am speaking with Brenda Bunn later today who is the founder of Loyal Rescue and will email you later today. Thanks so much. You are an angel.

Dawn K. Thompson-Realtor - When one door closes, another one opens. The one that opens will be far greater than you can hope or ask for. The BEST is yet to come! I have loved your work and never cease to be blessed & inspired by your amazing talent.

Joi Williams - Lady Bird Animal Sanctuary might be a good organization to continue making calendars or bio pics of adoptable pets, they are musicians and understand what it is like out there for artists trying to make a business. They are based in Hamilton, On, and have a fb page.

scruffy dog photography - thanks for the lead, Dee.

scruffy dog photography - hi Sandra, I would love to photograph Loyal’s foster dogs. please email me via the contact page and let’s talk!

scruffy dog photography - thanks so much, Patricia, for your kind and supportive words.

Sandra Spencer - It makes me sick how one new person or persons in an organization can ruin a wonderful relationship that you once had with this rescue group. It would be an honour if you would consider our rescue group Loyal Rescue. I have thought that if we only could find an incredible photographer like yourself to photograph our angels it would be a dream come true. We have so many deserving dogs that need to find a forever home and an awesome picture of them would certainly help to highlight them. Almost every weekend we are involved with rescuing dogs from some deplorable conditions and it never ceases to amaze me how trusting and calm these precious souls are and I can only hope that they find a wonderful home to love and cherish them like I do with my two rescues and one foster. You deserve to be treated so much better and it is their loss. Please , please check us out. I met you at Woofstock this summer and admire your work so much.

Wendy Webb - I to photograph for a living… Your right the volunteer hours do have reward, but people have little idea of the time, effort, and expense that goes into quality.
Committees are fluid, sometimes all is good and then BAM a new committee with new direction and it simply sucks. Been there, take the high road, go bigger and better, change happens – so let it spur you on to new heights of excellence.

Yvonne - It’s not just their loss… it’s everybody’s loss.
How about dogs with jobs?

DJ Loverock - Know that all things happen for a reason. Maybe its time to make your own calendar or even a book and sell them to dog organizations and give them a percentage of the sales. They can help their own organizations at the same time help support your incredible talent. Best wishes to a gifted photographer!

Kim Hopkins Bender - I am so sorry you had this negative experience. Your photos are stunning! I suggest you put this negative in your rearview mirror and find another animal charity that WILL appreciate you and all you are doing for the animals. Those 2 little words of “thank you” mean soooo much and why is it too often you hear: nothing said; “Have a nice day”; or “There ya go!” When did all of this become a replacement for thank you? Best of luck to you!

Evelyn Cowart - All of us in the rescue world understand all too well. I’m sure the actual fosters and adopters appreciate all you did to help save precious lives. We can only hope that a year or two with the new people running the organization will make people aware of the difference outlook and goals can make. Thanks for your care and dedication over the years.

scruffy dog photography - thanks for the input, Andy. i’ve been intending to research a bit more about Lulu, Cafepress, etc. … it’s hard for a perfectionist like me to work with these kinds of companies without seeing the finished product and quality first. so we’ll see.

and yes, i’ve certainly but lots of thought into shooting a scruffy dog calendar and have already figured out a lot of the mechanics in order to raise the most money and awareness possible. i’ve got some great ideas. but of course, distribution is important as well, and when partnered with a larger rescue group, that larger distribution is more likely … and can raise more $s.

oh, yes, i’ve been approached by many calendar publishers. they pay peanuts for images because they know the can get photos submitted from non-pros for free. even though i finally gave up a whole whack of images to Workman Publishing for 2014 at their request, (a) it’s not a good use of my stock, and (b) it doesn’t address my desire to make a difference.

and yes, i photograph foster dogs for different organizations to help their chances of adoption and/or to help raise funds required for their vetting … but this is the small stuff compared to producing a calendar that raises thousands of dollars each year. we’ll see. thanks again for the input!

Jen Brown - Hi Ilona,

I apologize if this has already been posted but I quicklt scanned the blog and did not see. What about service dogs. Pick an organization that uses/trains service dogs and proceeds from the calendar can be donated to a charity that would be applicable to one of the users. Thsi will also help raise awareness for all the different things these dogs do too. Some people think service dogs are just for the vision impared. Keep up the GREAT work!! Whatever you choose they will be lucky to have you.

Holly Montgomery - I know how much this affected you emotionally Illona, and I am sorry it worked out the way it did. I know you will find another project to work on, and you know if you need me at all just say the word! 😉 All we ask for in these ventures is just respect and a thank you. I don’t think that’s too much to ask!

Katy Henderson - These photographs are truly stunning. I dearly love each one of them. I can’t explain why a shelter would handle business this way, and I wish you weren’t on opposite ends of the planet from me because there are hundreds of rescuers here who would love to work with you. I love your work.

illona - thanks, Fred, I appreciate the feedback. and yes, it was suggested by the new admin that we put things on paper from now on … that *I* put something together for them … and quite honestly, i didn’t feel up to wasting the time to come up with an agreed-upon arrangement when i was left with nothing but the distinct feeling that that “writing” would simply be tossed out anyway. and then the story progressed to the point where it just seemed like a lose-lose situation. they DID have great potential in having scruffy dog as a ‘partner’, not just with the photos but the incredible marketing power i have at my disposal. yet, they clearly didn’t care, and this year any sense of ‘partnership’ was gone anyway. but you’re right, from now, with any future organization, i will be sure to get things in writing in case there is some administrative change again.

illona - thank you so much, Eric, for the kind words and encouragement. the mind is definitely wandering. 🙂

illona - thanks so much, Tina, for your kind words. i actually DID contact the Ontario SPCA several months ago via an email with impassioned words and links to past calendar images. i never received a reply. 🙁

i can’t chase these kinds of potential ‘partners’ … they have GOT to want scruffy dog, you know?

illona - thanks for your comment, Amanda. i’ve actually contacted Dog Rescuers Inc several times over the past year and once spoken with one of their reps in person at an event … asking, begging them to do photos of their foster dogs in order to help out. alas, they haven’t taken me up on it. I have to assume they have another photographer working with them.

illona - thank you for your comment, Denise. i am completely on board with the need for therapy dogs. in fact, i had Merrick Goobernuts certified last spring through Therapeutic Paws. we haven’t been assigned a placement yet, but i was just thinking earlier this week — after seeing the news story on CTV — that i’d love to visit the universities here. as i mentioned in my FB comment to you, i remember my university days and SO missing my dog and any kind of animal contact. i think it would be awesome to give these stressed students some dog-time, AND to keep reminding them how vital pets are in our lives … something which is often forgotten as they leave home and get caught up in their own lives. plus, merrick is such an advocate for rescue and rehabilitation.

illona - thanks for the comment, Karen. it’s good to know there are appreciative organizations out there. thank you for all that you do for the shelter cats and dogs!

illona - thanks, Ali. i’ve definitely put a lot of thought into doing my own fund-raising calendar … a LOT of thought, even down to the mechanics of how to organize it, etc. the benefit of having a partnership with the organization that will reap the funds raised is that you can more than double your sales, and THAT raises more money, along with more awareness. but, yes, if a good, solid, on-board organization can’t be found, i may end up doing a scruffy dog fundraising calendar.

illona - thanks for the suggestion, Dee! I’ll check out Guelph Humane!

illona - thanks, Kim. i’m going to think about the Mexico thing … i’d love to shoot down there … although i’d prefer to help those here. lots of ideas rattling around in my brain, for sure!

Liz uribe - I feel bad, not only because they dont appreciate your dedication, but also for those souls who are now in hands of an uncaring individual.

Crystal Beasley - Good for you! This was a good read & I totally get it! And agree with you. Your pics are awesome & any other shelter or other animal rescue would be very lucky to have you become apart of them… sonetimes ppl don’t know wut they have got until its gone. But even if you have to go elsewhere plz remember no matter where you go… The animals need you, you help them get to where they need to be-with awareness… and so much more… And wherever you go there will be animals waiting for your help… Maybe this is your path so you can help more of them from a place that doesn’t have the help you can provide. 🙂 Many Blessings to you on your path for your future. <3

Linda Bakcsy - It is obvious from your beautiful photos as well as your wonderfully descriptive and often amusing postings how much you love the animals that you photograph. How sad for the homeless animals that the administration is so caught up in itself that they can’t give the people involved in giving their organization a calendar to sell any mention. It sounds like they have lost sight of the true purpose – finding loving homes for the animals so much in need. I’m sure there are so many rescues that would love to have someone of your caliber and artistic eye to help their animals in need. What a loss for that rescue.

Liz Bell - I was going to say the same as some others!! Go for guide dogs….there are so many out there!! There are many organizations that would love your services I’m sure!! Sorry your heart felt work was unappreciated!!

Jennifer - I’ve been there, it’s disappointing, and very hard to understand….and it made me angry. But it’s their loss and I am sure in your area there are other organizations who would be thrilled to have you help. Next year they will be sorely disappointed and maybe they will realize how easy a few thank you’s would have been.

Susan Hummel - You made the right choice.

Kim Finck - How about a calendar of unsung heros…dog and soldiers from Iraq, or the rescue people that help rescue the stray dogs of Mexico…

Dee Jones - I’m sad to hear new management has decided to treat you so disrespectfully… It seems they’re brushing off quite a few people recently and in the end it will really bite them in the butt. you might wan to contact Shane Bateman down the road at Guelph Humane. I feel they would be unbelievably receptive to you donating your services to them. I’ve dealt with many shelters in the area and their staff is few but always very helpful and happy, and all the volunteers LOVE being there.

So sorry you had to experience this, but it is totally understandable and one should only be where they are loved and appreciated (just like shelter pets).

Sam Linville Franklin - I don’t know you and I’ve never seen your work until today, but thank you for all that you’ve done. It is because people like you give back, the world is a much better place. Thank you.

Sarah - Go with your gut and do whatever makes you happy 🙂 You have such a big heart and amazing talent. Who ever you decide to work with will be more than happy to have such a wonderful photographer like you.

ali - Just glanced through the other comments, and yes, doing your own calendar would be amazing! So many more people would be able to buy it and so much more publicity for you and more money for the organizations of your choice. Especially if you did it in a way that you didn’t have to deal with printing and shipping.

Ali - I’m sorry it turned out this way. These images are absolutely breathtaking and I am sure you will find an organization much more worthy of your time and attention and deserving of images such as these. As a working photographer myself I very much understand the amount of work that goes into those twelve sessions.

Karen - As a fellow pet photographer, I wholeheartedly agree with your decision. I, too, volunteer each week at a shelter organization providing photography services pro bono because it is part of “giving back” to the community in which I live. If I did not feel appreciated, I simply could not do it.

I hope you find an organization to partner with that will appreciate your enormous talent as well as the time and effort it takes to organize a project of this magnitude. I write only to say that organizations like this do exist and one day you will find each other…

denise - You’re at a crossroads. Understandable, yet, so regretful. I must urge you to follow the advice to consider therapy animals. The impact they have is far reaching, whether it’s a child with autism, an elder with Alzheimer’s, or even a university ‘paws’ room for stressed out students. This type of photography is certainly outside the realm of what you do, but would broaden some horizons in the future. PROMISE! Keep on with the love that shines through your photos. You are amazing at what you do… and the opportunity for new business will flow through that.

Judy - I’m sorry to hear this. In a time when no one can afford to take any gift for granted, especially shelters that need all the help they can get. It’s almost shocking. Please consider doing the calendar yourself anyway as so many have suggested. I know I would love one as I find your work beautiful. I’m sure you are developing a large following and a solution will come along that suits both you and whatever organization that is lucky enough to have your help.

Corrine Batchelor - 🙁

Susan Leclerc - You should be recognized for your contributions and absolutely beautiful and unique photography. What a loss for this org.,.

Amanda Judd - It’s horrible that you were used in such a way, but I’m glad that it opens you up to helping other organizations who may benefit from your amazing work. Since I’m not sure anyone has spoken for my favourite organization yet, I’d like to ask that you potentially look into working with The Dog Rescuers Inc. http://www.thedogrescuersinc.ca/ They are a dedicated group of people in the Oakville area who rescue, foster, and rehabilitate abandoned dogs from all over Canada.

Leanne Brischetto - Your post has made me really sad. You should not have had to write this post or defend yourself – the credit and respect should have been given without thought, I believe. Any well run organization should have the manners and intelligence to recognize this from the outset. I know your talent and efforts will be appreciated and respected elsewhere.

Tina MacKinnon - What. The. Freck. Were they thinking? I want a calendar and I’m not even local. Gorgeous photography, and all they had to do was hand you the reins and say “go to it.” Geez louise. I’d email a larger national group with sample photos, and get yourself a written agreement. Then photograph with joy, the way youwant to. You could even ask paying clients for permission to use existing photos for charity-betcha they’d say yes.

Rita Vasquez - I am so sorry to read this. Your work is beautiful and I’m sure the winners on these pages have appreciated the wonderful images of their pets over the years. It seems that so many organizations as well as individuals are jumping on the “give me something for nothing” bandwagon. They are cutting off their nose to spite their face, as the saying goes. I completely understand your view point. I am also glad that you are planning on finding another organization to partner with where your time and efforts will not be taken for granted. Whoever they are, they will be lucky dogs, indeed.

Diana Sullada - I agree with Selma. Don’t stop. Your talents are recognized by your fans (like me). Simply search for a new shelter. It is sadly true that many shelters shouldn’t be called shelter. My husband and I tried to adopt a dog but weren’t returned with a call from any of the shelters we contacted. It’s unacceptable. I think you should find a place that gives you the credit you deserve. Good luck.

Selma Mulvey - Stunning photography. Find another shelter would be my advice because not everyone is tone deaf.

Tamara Kenneally - I really do understand this. I’ve completely been there. I think it’s the best decision for you and definitely their loss.

Joanna Reichert - I am so sorry to read this. I know this is heart-breaking – you keep giving the benefit of doubt, over and over, and nope, that ship is sinking regardless.

I say, good riddance to bad rubbish and let the chips fall where they may. Will they have less adoptions or exposure because they spit in your face? Maybe. Is it your responsibility to rescue them from their stupidity? Not at all. And you realize that.

I know you’ll be able to concentrate on people who DO respect your value and I wish you the very best this Christmas! 🙂

Andy Mathis - Your photos are beautiful and it is obvious that you spend a lot of time and thought into choosing locations, props, etc.

Is the shelter no longer doing a calendar? Nothing worse than feeling unappreciated and used, but don’t despair for long. I see a few problems with this arrangement- I assume that contest winners won because of donations to the shelter. Or was in just votes on the photos?

If it were me, I would shoot my own calendar. It could be adopted pets, it could be client’s pets, it could be pets needing to be adopted. The connection for the person purchasing the calendar is with your photos and your vision. If you don’t want to deal with orders and shipping- then use sites like Lulu, MagCloud, Zazzle, and Cafepress to fill the orders. Or use all of them as not everyone shops at the same place or site. Whatever royalties are created can be donated to shelters, rescue groups, or charities of your choosing.

Have you considered submitting your photos to companies that produce calendars for retail? You get the name recognition and credit for the photos, and royalites on a national or international scale, could produce more money for charity than a local shelter calendar.

If you are wanting to “give back” in a more direct way, then consider photographing rescue pets that are waiting to be adopted. These wouldn’t require such a huge chunk of time to be blocked off your schedule as it sound like this calendar project has been. Have an hour or two, photograph a few pets in the shelter parking lot, etc.

That’s just my thoughts off the top of my head. If you need help identifying which companies produce calendars here in the States, I can help with those.

Liz Coleman - Absolutely shameful treatment of one of the finest pet photographers in the world. Thousands of dollars worth of work donated to them as a gift, and they treat you like this?! There are plenty more animal charities who would bite your hand off for a gift like that. Brush yourself down and find a charity which appreciates your contribution.

Steve Barker - Their loss.

Michelle Schertzer - Well put. It’s unfortunate when things need to come down to this, but as a business owner myself, I can completely understand why you had to make this difficult decision.
I’m sorry to hear that you were unappreciated in your tremendous effort to raise awareness for the organization. They were lucky to have such a highly skilled photographer working alongside them. The next organization you work with will be incredibly lucky. (And hopefully MUCH more appreciative!)
Best of luck! Keep up the amazing work you do, and have a great Christmas!

Fraida Gutovich - I am heartbroken for both you and the animals! Your love for what you do is so evident through your pictures. I am confident your magic will be thoroughly appreciated and recognized by more worthy institutions in the future! Wishing you and your Scruffies a happy and healthy holiday!

Jean Cote - Wow. That’s is totally understandable! Time is much more valuable than money in my opinion, and they should at least give you credit for taking the photographs, that’s the least that they should do. In fact, I think they should have it inside the calendar unless they paid for the images/work. 🙂

Tina Senecal - I have been there. It’s such a difficult place to be, too, because you love and believe in the cause, but people don’t understand the commitment and effort you put into it. A simple “thanks” goes a long way. I don’t understand how people continue to treat others – especially those who are helping them – with such disregard and disrespect. Your images are beautiful…I hope you find a way to continue to share them. Best of luck.

Colleen Elizabeth Bean - First of all, your work is absolutely beautiful. You capture the individual personalities of the animals you photograph with each snap. It is very unfortunate that some do not respect and appreciate the dedication that you show for photographing the beauty of these once abandoned animals. Sometimes we do have to move on when others do not demonstrate appreciation for volunteer work. I agree with the post below, go with your heart. Best of luck finding another organization to support. I am out of Ontario, so I do not have a suggestion for you. Perhaps, therapeutic dog groups? Just a thought. Merry Christmas and all the best in starting a fresh new venture in 2013.

Patricia Lynn Brooks Pasqualle - Your spot on! There is nothing worse than being a giving artist and not being recognized, even when it is for a good cause. The bad taste that results is impossible to ignore, as is financial loss. The biggest problem in business today is when there is change in management, they always come in and want to change everything to their specs without seeing what is working for the place already and changing what isn’t. There are tons of animal charities out there who would be honored and accepting of the incredible “work” you do…and it is WORK. As for me, I am with you on this one 100%. Its not just a feel good thing to help with a charity,. It has to be a positive environment, when the people who run it make it a negative one, its time to move on. I wish our local shelters had someone with your talent offering up their time to help fundraise! Your work speaks volumes….don’t be discouraged by the bad apple….find a new outlet for your love, and you charity will be rewarded and you will be appreciated once again. Please keep the post up…I cannot tell you how many days have been made better by taking a break and enjoying your work through my computer. Thanks for everything…Merry Christmas.

Mary Timmons-Babcock - I am tremendously sorry that the shelter’s new managers are so ignorant, but I’m sure they will feel the loss next year. Your work is awesome. You catch the spirit and personality of the animals, not just an image. There are so many worthy and deserving rescues, I would not even be able to begin to pick on to suggest. I do favor the Beagle Rescue Project……..but they are not anywhere close to you. Go with your heart. <3 <3 <3.

Eric - Illona, I am disappointed to hear about the administrative shift, it’s unfortunately something that we too have experienced and it’s always hard to fathom someones agenda when they make these sorts of decisions. The good news, you will always be a brilliant photographer and there will be a group out there that will side with you thru thick and thin for the long haul. I promise you first hand that those groups exist and they are worth the search. What might be interesting is to combine your skills with another service organization that maintains some animal facet to their offerings. Are their relief workers that rescue animals where you could combine the before and afters, travelling to help out extreme cases. These organizations can afford to pay some expenses as well as they understand the long term benefits will outweigh initial costs, the returns are there. Just a thought? Talk with your favourite canine supply mfg and propose something that suits you. Everybody can win. Your shots are the best I have seen, maybe you do them based on a theme that you choose each year and then sell them online to promote the theme/charity, all proceeds back in… let your mind wander, and free yourself from the stink of this small minded incident. Their loss, yours and your next organizations gains.

Tracey - I agree with the comments. It’s unfortunate that you put forth your efforts and your hard work went unnoticed by new management. Your pictures are truly beautiful and you have a knack of capturing the unique personality of your furry subjects. But with that said, and I’m sorry to play the devil’s advocate, when we give ourselves to charity or to help a worthy cause, we do so selflessly because we love and admire that cause. If you want to “use” that cause to benefit you in some way, then you should organize something yourself through your business and that way you have the best of both worlds. I know you would do a fabulous job!!! Don’t get discouraged, there are plenty of charities and worth while causes you can focus your talents on.

Lisa Collins - Illona, I don’t blame you. You are doing the right thing!

You need a break sometimes also. You work way too hard!

Have you tried the human society?

Good luck! Don’t worry!

Merry Christmas
Lisa

michelle bradshaw - illona, how sad…..I still look at the 2011 calendar to this day. In fact it’s pinned to my wall here at work so I can see my sweet Macy’s face as soon as I arrive at my desk. The 2012 calendar sits below it waiting to be replaced by the 2013 calendar. I’m ashamed at how you have been treated because you are one of the hardest working, devoted, kindest people I know. Thank you for all of your hard work in the past to help the animals at the shelter. I know you will find a new outlet for your talent that will appreciate all of your hard work!

tovah - Having been a (paid) non-profit employee in the past who received little to no appreciated for the job done, I know how disheartening it can be to not even get a ‘good job’ or ‘thanks’ from the powers that be, especially if that encouragement had been offered in the past. I will say, it’s their loss, but I doubt they’ll ever realize that. I also know how painful a split with an organization you really care about can be, especially when it’s the bosses that cause the split rather than any change at the front lines that make you feel differently about the work being done.

There’s nothing wrong with focusing your talents towards an organization who appreciates them. There’s a group out there that will be a great fit for you again, and it’ll be as good if not better than it was before.

Ron Adkin - I am always amazed at the amount of politics, self-serving one-upmanship , and general callousness that is shown by these organizations that are supposedly there to help and serve unwanted and abused animals. It’s such a shame that you have to end a relationship that, apparently, served both parties. Good luck !

Mona - I cannot imagine anyone not appreciating your beautiful work. I hope you find a good organization to work with soon. You are a great inspiration to me and I hope to meet you someday. I did want to let you know I found a group that raises money and distributes it to all the local rescue organizations. For me that was where I could do the most to help with animal rescue. I hope you can find a group like that or better yet, start your own.

Sheila McGregor - Thank you, thank you, thank you ~ Thank you for what you do, who you are and putting all of that ‘out there’ for us to share in, enjoy, be inspired by and increase our level of compassion. I have only recently found SCP and am so very glad I did (maybe it was thorugh FB?). Your honesty and clear explanation brings insight and appreciation for you and so many others that give of themselves, their time, etc. for what they love. We all know that such endeavors ‘cost’ something, but it is too easy to forget. I know you will find a new fit as a way to ‘give back’ because it is evident that is what is in your heart. My thoughts keep going toward some type of gallery showing and auction of your amazing photographs – they are works of art. Here in Seattle we love animals – dogs especially! and art, so I could see an event like that easily happening (or NYC too!). Please receive this Thank You, and the many others in the comments and let them soak in deep to your soul – to refresh and restore, comfort and heal.

Joni Solis - This should be a wake up call to the whole community that this shelter needs a new leader because if they can treat someone that is working so hard for the animals like this they are not doing what is best to help the most shelter animals.

Your photos are some of the best pet photos I have ever seen. Your talent and heart are magnificent.

Fred - I agree with the other commenters that it’s their loss and your work is one if the finest in the pet photography world. You inspire me every day.
I want to give you some more critical feedback though in an attempt to help.
You’ve done such a great job building your business to be the best in your area. It sounds like part if the issue is you didn’t treat the shelter like any other client. You were doing them a favor and helping support the life of the animals they support which is great but it sounds like you didn’t get them to sign any kind of contract with you like you would with any other client. Maybe you are but they need to see the hard numbers of what the cost for your services are. They need to sign the contract and keep to their end of the work. It is totally within your rights to require recognition with in all the work you do and that you still own the rights to all the work you do. You’re not just a employee; you’re an outside consultant that allows them to bring in valuable resources into the shelter.
Making assumptions and expecting people to do right by you will always lead to where you are now. You do amazing work and they are loosing a major resource. They think they can get someone with a camera to just take new photos and not need you. Since the decision makers have changes, maybe they just don’t appreciate the value of photography. Not everyone does. Moving on isn’t bad. Change is good even. I would just suggest that you avoid the assumptions you made with the next lucky group.
Best of luck.

kelva Kitson - It sounds to me you have thought long and hard about this decision and the outcome is tough but fair as far as I can see .i totally appreciate the time and effort you put into your work and stand beside any decision you make for you personally and for your business .good luck in the year to come ,stand tall in your decision and your fans are behind u ….

Jenn - The end of one tradition welcomes the beginning of something bigger and better. It sounds like you have served in love, grown in character and made a change for the better while maintaining your high standards.
Good for you in setting such a noble example! 🙂
These life lessons are never fair or easy, but then again, we are talking about LIFE with less than perfect people. I appreciate your willingness to explain with honesty and remain open to the next view on the horizon. The sky is the limit and you can photograph that while your enjoying the views!

Wendy - You deserve the recognition for your work and not to have your integrity questioned, what a loss for the animals whose lives were enhanced from your work. Follow your heart and continue your work with another agency. Thanks for the smiles and your doggy lovin heart!!

Marni - Your beautiful work speaks for itself – however at some point we must all take a stand, and speak up – I commend you for your exemplary efforts and will continue to recommend you to all that I meet. When we deal with organizations whose management have been promoted into positions they are not qualified for, they prove to be detrimental to those organizations, who ultimately will pay the price for their lack of forethought. We wish you the greatest success, and as always, your work SHINES! .. be proud of yourself, your fans already are 🙂

Wendi - I agree with your decision 100% You apparently have given so much and to get this in return is very disheartening. You can tell that you love what you do and people need to appreciate it…NOT expect it.
I love your work…i would love to buy one of the calendars if you offer it for sale. Hoping that this is possible 😉 Hang in there…you have to do what is right for you and follow your heart ?

Shiona Cameron - How very sad! Your photos are absolutely stunning. I am with Staffordshire Rescue Scotland – we are a small organisation, did our first calendar this year by asking everyone on facebook to send pics of their staffies in. We used them for the calendar – and we are so proud of them – though they don’t come close to the work you have done. How could anyone NOT appreciate what you have done to help those gorgeous rescue dogs! You have done a wonderful job.

Cindy@northofwiarton - This is so sad that what you have been giving back and contributing to the Community was brushed off so rudely. I find it terrible people do not recognize the kindness of others, choosing to ignore it or walk all over it. I have great respect for what you have done the past four years for the shelter, with total respect and understanding as to why you have decided to withdraw. Why would anyone subject themselves to such rejection to the point of it being emotional abuse with not one iota of gratitude sent your way. Way too many self-serving people in this World that I care to think about. I lived in the K-W areas for 25 yrs, and what a shame this has happened.

Julie Saraceno - I’m so sorry that this happened to you! I’m a photog and designer, and I also volunteer for a local rescue group. I know how much time and love goes into all these shoots! I’ve heard of lots of photogs doing “mini sessions” for a weekend and the profits go to a local shelter.

Karen Graham - I understand completely where you are coming from. Your work is beautiful and a work of art and the shelter should have realized that before it was too late. You deserve the recognition for your work that you are donating. I hope the shelter you choose to work with appreciates what a treasure they have.

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