For those of you who have been following my blog, facebook etc, you will remember the little guys from the Australian Working Dog Rescue Inc (AWDRI) that I have photographed this year for their adoption profiles.
The working dogs starring in this calender were rescued from the most desperate circumstances and undesirable situations – some could not work on a farm, risked being put to sleep or have lived in a pound for a long time. For dogs rescued in NSW and around Sydney, the AWDRI boards them at the Solar Lodge Kennels and Catery until they find a new home or a foster to go to.
Working dogs (for instance dogs that work on farms, at the army, police force etc) occupy a position in society that is outside the social space known as “pet ownership”. If these dogs fall out of this position, or never get to occupy it at all, there are very few options open for them. The chance of “re-employment” is not high, leaving only the hope of pet ownership as an alternative to a very uncertain future.
There is in this the very real threat of death (known as being "put down"), unless such dogs are ‘rescued’ by shelter groups and put in temporary accommodation in a series of kennels or foster homes.
Working dogs have no say in any of this - in pounds they are similar to objects in a “lost and found” department, with disposal a very real possibility if they are not claimed. Their destinies are entirely at the mercy of the narrow options given to them by humans.
Related to this, but at the other extreme, are pet shops where dogs are sold because of attractive coat markings and colours, features etc. I often wonder how many of these former glamour pets also end up in pounds and rescue groups each year.
I have compiled a calendar for the AWDRI with some portrait images from these shoots, focusing on the hopeful expressions of these working dogs ‘in transit’ - dogs awaiting adoption or fostering - a subtle way to examine the situation of working dogs in our modern society, how their identities are constructed, their dignities, and how this process is a life and death situation for them, reliant on the structures of pet ownership, its fashions and its rules. Most importantly, the hope and trust these working dogs still show towards us.
Proceeds from sales of the calendar go to AWDRI to help these working dogs find a new home.
You too can do your part in helping these dogs find a new home - grab a couple of these calendars as Christmas presents now!