When Ellen Dunn first volunteered to photograph the hundreds of adoptable animals at North Shore Animal League America in 2014, she wasn’t sure if she had quite the skillset. An avid landscape photographer, Ellen knew she had the talent and motivation, especially if it meant helping homeless animals find responsible, loving homes, but she knew getting dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens to sit still in order to capture the true essence of their personality in a single image wouldn’t be a walk in the park.
Today, almost three years later, Ellen and her Nikon D810 camera have become mainstays at our Port Washington, N.Y. campus. At least once a week you can find her and daughter Sharon, who is always on hand and armed with a squeaky toy to assist her mother, photographing many of the adoptable dogs that temporarily call Animal League America home. All of Ellen’s photos, which she spends several hours editing each week, are used on our website, social media outlets, and printed materials like our yearly fundraiser calendar in efforts to promote adoptions – something that she says is near and dear to her heart.
“The big payoff is when an animal is adopted because someone saw one of my photos. My heart is really with the adult dogs and the senior animals because you always want to see them find great homes. Any time I’m able to assist with that aspect, I’m grateful,” she said. “It keeps me going to know I’m making an impact. It also helps to have my daughter with me. The quality time we get to spend together during our time here is priceless.”
Ellen also made it a point to credit Kennel Manager Rosie Tombolo for her continued help with the dogs making their debuts in front of the camera. She said Rosie plays a vital role with not only bringing the 15 or so dogs out from their kennels to the shoot locations, but also by providing them with a recognizable face and a calming presence which often helps to create the perfect shot.
“Rosie is just so wonderful and such a pleasure to work with! I’d be remiss not to mention how devoted she is to all of the animals here. Without her, I don’t know if I’d be able to do what I do. She’s just a fabulous girl.”
Without dedicated volunteers like Ellen and her daughter Sharon, and selfless associates who have devoted their professional lives to improving the lives of the hundreds of animals that call our Adoption Center home, Animal League America would have never sprouted from a tiny local shelter into the world’s largest no-kill rescue and adoption organization. Securing the wellbeing of the animals has been and will always be our main focus, but it’s the hundreds of people behind the scenes who truly provide the animals with the compassionate care they need to live fulfilling, healthy lives in responsible, loving homes.
“Would I have ever have thought I’d be taking photos of animals and those photos would directly help them get adopted? No, never,” Ellen said. “But I really do love it and it’s brought a lot of joy to my life. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend part of my week. It means the world to me to be able to contribute to the cause.”
If you’re interested in learning more about volunteering at North Shore Animal League America, visit animalleague.org/volunteer