When Josh Feeney and his wife began volunteering at Chicago Animal Care and Control in 2012, they expected to spend time walking the dogs and playing with them. “But it took me about 30 minutes,” Feeney remembers, “to realize they have volunteers to walk dogs.”
He believed he could help in another way. “I felt and still feel what they need is exposure,” he said.
Feeney is a photographer. His specialty is nature, especially birds. (He’s no stranger to regular viewers of “Chicago Tonight,” where we’ve featured his coverage of bald eagles, owls and sandhill cranes.)
When a dog arrives at CACC, a snapshot is taken for the shelter’s database. “Oftentimes they’re nervous at that point, they’re upset, they’re scared, says CACC Director Kelley Gandurski. “So it’s not really capturing the essence of who the animal really is.”
“Juxtapose that,” says Gandurski, “with the photos that Josh Feeney takes, which are just phenomenal editorial photos.”
Feeney photographs 5 to 10 dogs each week, he says, and spends about 15 minutes with each one.
His first task is to make the dog comfortable. “The dog has been inside the shelter all night,” he says. “It’s loud. They’re barking. I kind of just let them just do what they want to do. If they want to play ball, I’ll shoot them playing ball. If they want to come sit down they can do that. If they want to ignore me they can do that.”
The photos are primarily used on social media, including Feeney’s Instagram account.
“When you have a cute photo of a dog that is being posted on social media, people tend to share that more often,” says Gandurski. “And the more shares, the more spreading of the word, the more the animal is networked and marketed. So the faster the dog can be rescued or adopted.”