Last summer, Miami photographer Ginger Monteleone rescued her first dog — an abused two-year-old pit bull mix. Doing as any professional photographer might, Monteleone took some gorgeous portraits of her new-found flame, whom she named Cali. Unable to keep the dog, Monteleone posted Cali’s photos on Facebook in the hopes that one of her friends, or a friend of a friend, would fall in love.
It worked. A friend of Monteleone’s convinced his wife that this must be their new family member. Hard as it was to give up Cali, this experience was the start of Monteleone using her shutter to help homeless pups find forever homes.
Since then, Monteleone’s photographed hundreds of dogs for several Florida rescues, the glamour shots attracting potential adopters who might not otherwise see the dog’s beauty. “I realized that having quality photos of dogs could mean the difference between life and death, or maybe just the next one picked for adoption,” says Monteleone, who makes a living photographing high-end Miami real estate. “Homes with bad photos simply get overlooked. The same goes for those in the market for their next pet. A good photo is crucial.”
But Monteleone has gone beyond taking photos. In November of 2010, she founded Big Hearts for Big Dogs , a foster-based rescue with no shelter or facility, focused on bigger dogs (think pit bull mix; pit bulls are banned in her county, Dade, yet thousands continue to end up in the county shelter, only to be put down each year). All of Big Hearts’ 20 current dogs live in foster homes in Florida, and all, of course, have beautiful photos on the site. In June alone, Big Hearts found new homes for 18 dogs, including eight puppies.
“I spend every day, seven days a week, doing something rescue related,” Monteleone says. “It can be overwhelming at times but I do it gladly.”
Freekibble.com was so inspired by Monteleone’s work that a donation of 5,000 meals of Halo’s Spot’s Stew was made to Big Hearts for Big Dogs. Says Freekibble.com’s Kelly Ausland: “Ginger’s photographs are saving lives.” “It was wonderful,” says Monteleone of the donation. “It’s really healthy food, I was really impressed with that by reading the label.
It’s really healthy food; I was really impressed with that by reading the label.
“I love the food and lot of the dogs we get are not in the best health, I am sure the food helps,” Monteleone continues. “We usually see a dog thrive in our care and I’m sure the food has something to do with it. They need a healthy diet and medication and love.”