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Arts & Life

The Secret Behind Finding A Pet A Good Home? Doggy Glamour Shots

Fort Collins photographer Erin Thames does typical portrait gigs like engagements and head shots. But her favorite assignments go to the dogs.

"I'm kinda known to be an animal whisperer so people are really shocked when there's scared dogs - 'You'll never be able to photograph my dog' - and I still always get it," said Thames, a professional photographer who volunteers for the Animal House pet rescue.

Why do shelter dogs need a professional photo shoot? Because, Thames said, they're more likely scared and stuck in a kennel. Too often shelters take iPhone pics of the animals that can be blurry, or give the animal red eye. The worst is when there's an unfortunate backdrop.

"If there's a chain link fence in the background, a certain percentage of people won't adopt that dog," she said.

On this particular day, she's photographing Jewels, an 8-year-old Vizla mix living with the Brondzinski-Nortons, her foster family. Jewels needs a little extra help when it comes time for her close-up.

"Originally she was part of a hoarding case," foster mom Theresa Brodzinski-Norton said. "And then she was rescued from the hoarder, and I think she was about a year old. And she went to a home for like a year and half and was returned. I think she just never came out of her shell there, so."

Brodzinski-Norton and her husband have already seen how the right photo can mean the difference between another foster home and a forever home.

"Oh, it's huge for these dogs," she said. "It's the difference between a dog cowering in the corner in a little concrete and wire enclosure in a shelter and a seeing a dog out and comfortable and in a house. I think it helps people to visualize what that dog might be like in a home setting."

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Credit Erin Thames / Erin Thames Photography
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Erin Thames Photography
Quick to strike a pose, fellow foster dog Cali set a good example for Jewels.

For Thames, that means making the dog look and feel as comfortable as possible when it comes time for their close-up.

Like with Skip, a Chihuahua that had been in rescues like Animal House for years. Skip was terrified when Thames arrived to take his picture.

"He would only be on his foster's lap, which isn't an ideal photo, right?," she said. "But he did just get adopted recently so you're always like, 'Yay! Good job.'"

Despite Thames' best efforts to get a close-up shot sans zoom lens, Jewels remained wary during her photo shoot. Until fellow foster dog Cali, a wiggly 1-year-old pit bull, stole the spotlight. That brought Jewels a little closer to her. That and the treats, which Thames describes as "like crack for dogs."

Each dog is different. So Thames has an arsenal of attention getters – from treats to toys that squeak to her own sound effects.

"You'll hear me make a lot of weird noises, like high pitched noises that try to get their ears up," she said. "To look happy, I want their ears up, their tail not tucked, so any trick I can pull out to get that."

Thames does eventually get a good shot of Jewels, standing on the sidewalk with a content look on her face. Apparently it did the trick – Jewels was recently adopted.

"I love it," she said. "Yeah, that's what it's for."

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