Photo Feature: Grover’s Story

grover's story, a little scruffy Scottish Terrier mix
[© Carolyn Schroeder 2013. This photograph is the exclusive copyright of Carolyn Schroeder and used by with permission.]

About the Photograph

Over 16 years, I have helped more than 250 dogs and 30 cats find sanctuary in my small home. Most were scheduled for euthanization. I then helped rehabilitate them (physically and emotionally) and find them awesome, forever homes.  I have taken photographs of all of them.

This remains one of my favorite photos because it captures the longing, sadness, yet hopeful nature of rescuing dogs/cats in dire need. Grover, a little scruffy Scottish Terrier mix, originally came from a very high-kill shelter and he was due to be euthanized. He was an older dog, maybe 8-10 years, with poor hearing, a bit cloudy in the eyes, and not the best at being housebroken. So, I figured I would never place him. Despite that, his hopeful little face won me over and I took him in for foster care and with a bit of luck, to find him a permanent home. He was the most devoted, happy, easygoing dog, kind and gentle with everyone, including other animals.

I found him a home with a retired couple who did love him, I think, but returned him in about a year because the man was quite ill, and the wife did not feel she could handle her husband’s illness and the eventual needs of an older dog. Grover was so despondent and sad when he was returned, and that is when the photo was taken. He was just sitting there waiting for his people to come back. He would wait there for hours on end. It broke my heart and again. I thought I would never find him a home because so few people want an older dog.

After a month or so, he was adopted by a severely depressed older gentleman who had recently lost his wife to cancer. I had never seen a human being so down and he cried during most of the “meet and greet” and adoption. It was the deep kind of crying where he kept gasping and crumpling over. As a stranger to him, it was a very profound moment, being exposed to such raw pain. Before that time in my life, I had never experienced anything like it and, somehow, I felt that he had something to teach me. He just could not figure out how to live without his wife, and he told me he questioned whether he even wanted to. For all his sadness, he just hugged Grover and those two seemed to really understand each other. It was like Grover knew he had a job to do and just took over. He became such a noble and sure little guy. I believe he gave that man the will to live. The adoption went great and eventually, the man learned to smile again and even look forward to the coming days.

In humane association work, I see the worst and the very best of humans. Grover’s story never fails to remind me why I continue doing intake, adoption counseling, foster care and placement of abandoned animals. Sometimes, a dog or cat just needs to find his person, and vice versa, and I’m the conduit to heal the pet for a while, maybe see if it can learn to trust again, and then do just that: find it a home. I am continually awed by the animals and human beings, who despite great loss, learn to love again. I cannot think of a better thing I could do with my life. Photographing some of those special moments is one way to show the world what I am so proud of.

About the Composition

This particular photograph wasn’t quite as adventurous as some others (see below). In fact,  I did not think about the composition much when I shot it. With animals, I observe, let them be themselves and try to capture the ordinary, quiet moments, because those absolutely tell the best stories.  I try not to manipulate the original composition too much and just let the subject matter carry the day.  I did crop this one to show Grover looking out to a bit of space, to further tell the story of this hopeful little dog who sat there waiting for the person he must have known would eventually come into his life. I then converted it to black and white because I felt it conveyed the mood much better than color.

About My Photography

carolyn schroeder photography

I got started in film photography in high school in the 1980s using my Dad’s old Minolta SR-T 101. It was true love from that moment on and throughout the years. The magic of the darkroom became the magic of the digital arena, but I love it just the same – just different tools to tell visual stories.

I take select commissions, but, mostly, I’m so incredibly busy with what I photograph every day (and the day job of lawyering, which allows me the money to do what I love), it can be a little difficult.

In addition to my B.F.A., which did have some photography courses, I have taken a smattering of seminars for Adobe Photoshop. But, for the most part, I am self-taught. I’m a big fan of “gadgets” in the digital darkroom and love exploring all the third-party filters and software.

I am a huge fan of getting off the beaten path, even if that means braving snow storms to do it. I have been told I am in a lot of other people’s photographs, crawling around in the dirt, hanging from trees and being a general nuisance, just to get the perfect shot, whether that be in a Paris café or the remote island of La Fe in The Galapagos.

[Note: All photograph copyrights are owned by the photographer. Please do not copy, download, etc., without prior permission.]

-Carolyn Schroeder-