Chris Martin may not have been named Petco’s 2019 national “Unsung Hero,” but his work on behalf of animals continues to inspire.
A volunteer photographer at Lewis and Clark Humane Society in Helena, Mont., Martin received a $10,000 grant from the Petco Foundation in March.
Martin, who works remotely as a technical specialist for Slingerlands-based Sabre Companies, and four other volunteers from across the country received the foundation’s Unsung Hero Award. They then competed in online voting for a top prize of $25,000.
It’s the photography work that he does each week at the Montana animal shelter — with a few cameras, lights and a bag full of squeaky toys to help pets find their forever homes — that inspired Loudonville resident Lise Hafner to do something similar at Homeward Bound Dog Rescue of New York.
“All of us involved with rescuing animals and finding them forever homes know the incredible value of a photo that shows who that pet is,” said Dyahn Vonie, principal volunteer at Homeward Bound. “Adoptions increase with quality photographs, and while we haven’t met Chris yet, we are so grateful for his encouragement of Lise, who helped us find more forever homes for more dogs.”
Hafner, whose family recently adopted a 2-year-old dog named Koda from Homeward Bound, and Martin’s connection goes back even further.
Martin is a photography mentor to Hafner and her son, Jeffrey Endler. They connected on service trips to Tanzania.
Endler won first place in the People category of National Geographic for Kids 2012 United States International Photography Contest with a photo he took after he made the 7,000-mile journey to the Sinai Primary School in Babati, Tanzania, the sister school of Woodland Hill Montessori School in Rensselaer.
That trip was organized by the Water, Power, Peace project, which brought clean and safe drinking water to the East African school in 2009.
The project, which features a sister-school curriculum centered on science and culture, began when teachers from Woodland Hill and Sabre Technical Services staff traveled to the Sinai Primary School. Sabre then designed playground equipment to generate power and a system to store it.
Now a senior at Colby College, Endler, 21, continues to hone his photography skills.
“Jeffrey was able to take a class in India for four weeks, and some of his work — especially at the foothills of the Himalayas — is just really stunning,” said Hafner, who is also volunteering as a photographer for the Albany nonprofit The Red Bookshelf. “I’m really proud of him and his eye for detail.”
Hafner got involved with Homeward Bound after her daughter, Kit, wanted to volunteer there.
The rescue has no facility and all dogs are housed in foster homes. Adoption clinics are held Saturdays at 33 John St.
After working out some kinks — like shooting in an enclosed space with a reflective flash and a lack of lighting — Hafner learned how to set up a backdrop and work with the dogs to bring out their personalities.
“These poor dogs were so frightened after being on transport from down south for 12 to 15 hours,” Hafner said. “It was an incredibly gratifying experience, especially when I started hearing that a family came in because my photo captured a particular dog’s personality. It became a really fun and moving challenge.”
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For information about the nonprofit Homeward Bound Dog Rescue of New York, go to homewardbounddogrescue.com.