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About a year ago, when a homeless adult pit bull found its way to the Tangipahoa Animal Control Shelter in Hammond, Louisiana, staffers knew they faced a challenge to find him a home. Known as “bully breeds,” pit bulls can be especially hard to adopt because of the perception that they’re aggressive. But this dog also had another challenge: deformities in his front two legs.
For animals like him, the chances are slim to none to get out of a high kill shelter. But for tough luck cases like his, that’s when the services of Nanette Martin can mean the difference between life and death. A professional photographer, Martin is the co-founder of Shelter Me Photography, a nonprofit that specializes in photographing shelter animals to give them a better chance at being adopted. Since 2001, Martin has photographed more than 5,000 shelter animals, significantly increasing adoption numbers as well as web traffic to the shelters after her photos are posted.
Like so many animals, having his photo taken was just what the pit bull needed to find the right home. The photo was spotted by Fur Angels Animal Sanctuary, a rescue group in Indiana, who took him in to buy more time to find a family. And it was while he was being cared for at Fur Angels that he found his “forever” home.
“When I saw his picture, he looked like he was saying, ‘This is who I am. Won’t someone give me a chance?’” says Monica Kaskey, his proud owner. She and partner Sarah Gray already owned two dogs, a dalmatian mix and Australian shepherd, but they saw something special when they saw his picture on Facebook.
“Sarah said, ‘We need him!’ and we caved in,” says Kaskey. Kaskey has a soft spot for dogs that “others pass by” and does a lot of work in dog rescue. Though she sees hundreds of dog pictures through her work, there’s a unique quality to Martin’s photos that really resonates.
“Nanette really puts a lot of work into these photos; they’re sort of a new concept,” says Kaskey. “They capture the personality of the dogs, more than just a shot of them behind bars where they’re scared, nervous, or hiding.”
Since adopting Zulu—a name they chose since the pit bull is a “warrior against the world’s odds”—Kaskey and Gray couldn’t be happier. They’ve been learning to work with his deformity and while his left front leg is not functional (it's bent at a 90 degree angle), he’s been given a prostethic for his right front foot to help offset the strain of carrying Zulu’s 70 pound weight.
“We are looking into wheels so that he can run and walk without pain on his weight bearing foot,” says Kaskey. But that’s not stopping Zulu from helping others when he can. He serves as a breed ambassador for Brew City Bully Club, an awareness group for pit bulls. Zulu regularly goes to schools and dog shows to help educate the public on the gentle temperament of his breed. An ideal ambassador, he shows by example what can happen with a lot of luck and a lot of people like Martin who are passionate about dogs in need.