As the saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Complexity of something or someone can be conveyed by a single image and explain the essence of the subject. Within those first few seconds of looking at a photo, is often when emotional connections are made.
Studies have shown that a person with a more professional picture on LinkedIn is more likely to be considered for an interview or job offer. Pictures draw a likeness and build a connection that makes senses come alive. Essentially, a photograph can change someone’s life for the better.
Prior to adopting his dog Ray, Christian Shenouda was on the fence about adoption due to the stereotype that all dogs who end up in shelters and rescues have emotional issues. However, when he was scrolling through an adoption website, his eyes were immediately drawn to a good boy named Ray. There was an emotional connection made through that one photo and because of that, Ray found a new loving home.
Shenouda’s bond with Ray led to an appreciation for the work that shelters and rescues do, so he started looking into ways he could help. As a graphic designer, Shenouda is always looking for inspiration, which led him to stumble upon famous underwater dog photographer Seth Casteel. To Shenouda’s luck, Casteel was holding a workshop at a local shelter to help save shelter dogs through photography by taking nicer photos and updating the animals profiles.
“Once I learned that, I just got hooked. As soon as I started going to shelters, and realizing that it does make such a difference, I just did it as often as I could during my free time,” said Shenouda.
According to a study done by the Animal Society Institute, dogs that held eye contact with a camera resulted in a median days of adoption of 27 days whereas dogs who did not look at the camera had a median days of adoption of 45 days. In some cases, those 18 days can make all the difference in a shelter dog’s life. That’s where Shenouda comes into play.
“I try to go to shelters when they’re really busy. I feel like when I take nicer photos, it helps the dogs move along and get adopted faster, so that the shelters can make room for incoming dogs,” Shenouda stated, regarding common issues shelters face.
Shenouda has no way of knowing how many dogs he has impacted for the better, but he knows his efforts are making a difference.
“There was one time where this couple adopted a senior dog that I photographed,” Shenouda said happily.
“The couple who eventually adopted him reached out to me to let me know they adopted him, so I met up with them to make a cute little video. It’s really rewarding to know when I help a senior dog get out of the shelter and find a nice comfy place to live the remainder of their life.”
Shenouda’s work has caught more eyes than just the adopters. He’s received attention from actress and fellow animal lover Hilary Swank, who gave him inspiration to start a YouTube series featuring the dogs he works with.
“Hilary Swank was liking my dog photography stuff on Instagram and that kind of got me thinking, well if she’s watching maybe I should make some cooler videos,” said Shenouda. “She was really supportive and loving all my posts, so that kept me inspired to improve.”
Another inspiration of Shenouda’s YouTube series is fellow dog enthusiast and YouTube influencer Rocky Kanaka. Shenouda fell in love with the type of videos Kanaka was putting together so he decided to follow in similar footsteps to showcase the personalities of dogs he works with.
“People see the photos, but I wanted them to see more of the process because it was so entertaining to me, like the stuff dogs do is hilarious. So I just leave my camera rolling and I get all these really funny moments of the dogs.”
No matter the amount of attention Shenouda receives, his sole purpose is to help dogs get adopted as quickly as possible. He does all of his work as a volunteer and remains motivated knowing that he’s helping these dogs in need, and potentially their new owners as well.
Nothing is more fulfilling to him than helping these “sweet souls”, along with the possibility of creating more tail wags for them in the future.
When asked about how his work with shelter animals has changed his life, Shenouda said, “It’s given me a really strong sense of fulfillment and happiness. It feels good to be helping to make the world a better place.”
To find out more about Shenouda and his work, subscribe to his YouTube page Rescue Ray.
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