Intimate Portraits of Animal Shelter Volunteers Reveal a Heartwarming Bond

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Photographer Jesse Freidin has spent the past year capturing the bond that’s shared between shelter volunteers and the animals they care for. “No one talks about the logistical aspects of pet adoption, or how it takes a huge toll on people doing this work,” Freidin told The Huffington Post. “These volunteers show up for free and carry the brunt of the work. They’re the ones who allow the animals to go through the system and they’re responsible for getting the animals adopted.” Rather than simply photographing these hardworking individuals for his Finding Shelter project, the artist also wanted to find out why they dedicate their time to such a cause.

While the caretakers do look after their animals, Freidin also believes that they receive something in return. “I had this theory before I started that there’s a cycle of support and healing that’s happening,” he said. In other words, he imagines that the volunteers are emotionally benefitting from the sympathetic work that they do. “Across the board, if nothing else, these people have a deep desire to give back,” said Freidin. “But in turn, are seeking some kind of support from that process.”

In the end, the photographer hopes that his work will shine a light on the volunteers who dedicate their time to an admirable mission. Recently, Freidin launched a Kickstarter so that he can continue photographing at shelters across the country. He wants to chronicle what he learns in a book, while also giving the shelters free digital copies of his images. These high-quality snapshots will allow the animals to have a better chance of getting adopted. “I truly believe that dog photography is simply a study of the human condition, and that animals shelters are a place where humanity thrives,” Freidin explains on his website.

Above: Kriss and Jack. “My hope is that the life I live sets an example for my family and friends about volunteering and helping others to better our community and humanity.” — Kriss, GRCGLAR

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Emma, Sophie, Macy, and Jimmy

“It is one thing to read about the billions of animals who are killed for food every year, but to meet one of them up close and personal is profoundly powerful.” — Emma, Farm Sanctuary

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Mari and Mark

“Being allowed to give back has, in turn, changed the way I view the world, and has saved me when I too experienced sorrow and hardships.” — Mari, Peninsula Humane Society

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Tennille and Oliver

“It is extremely rewarding to be able to help take care of the cats (and dogs) on a daily basis, and give them all the love and attention I can.” — Tennille, spcaLA

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Jeremiah and Picasso

“I volunteer to help the greater dog community by giving back some of the love that my old dogs gave to me.” — Jeremiah, Muttville Senior Dog Rescue

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Paula and Neptune

“Neptune is a special dog, I saw myself in him in many ways. He came from a home full of violence, but still seemed so happy and goofy. The fact that we were here for him when his owner needed to get away, saved not just his life, but her life as well. His story is a perfect example of how helping animals is not just helping animals, but helping people too.” — Paula, spcaLA

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Kaya and Knox

“Volunteering at the shelter makes me very happy because I love seeing the dog’s big cute smiles on their faces when I give them a cuddle or kiss or even a little treat – it lightens up their whole day – just by giving them a simple piece of my heart!” — Kaya, Family Dog Rescue

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Clare and Katie

“A dog like this does particularly poorly in the shelter and yet she has spent the first two years of her life here. Why? Why do so many dogs – even those who are beautiful, smart, and loving – spend so long waiting for a home?” — Clare, Family Dog Rescue

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Lesley and Kona

“I felt it was my obligation to jump in and strategize how to help this unthinkable crisis of man’s best friend.” — Lesley, Wags and Walks Rescue

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Sheryl and Jimbo

“When working as an adult, dogs came visiting as therapy dogs for patients and always sensed what I needed. Being able to participate in our rescue group Dogs Without Borders has meant a great deal to me as it’s what I have always wanted to do. Rescue is just in my blood!” — Sheryl, Dogs Without Borders

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Tim and Rhonda

“I often have the public make the comment to me when they see my work with shelter cats, ‘It’s so great that you work with these animals, you give so much to them.’ I then correct them and tell them ‘You have it backwards; the animals give me a lot more than I give them.'” — Tim, Peninsula Humane Society

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Sonya and Maude

“A couple years later, with all the experiences I’ve had, and all the pit bulls I’ve gotten to know, I can say: I love these dogs.” — Sonya, BADRAP

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Connor and Mosey

“I volunteer with dogs because I have a lot to learn, and dogs are really great teachers.” — Connor, BADRAP

Via My Modern Met, The Huffington Post

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