Finding Their Forever Homes

Richard Phibbs has photographed everyone from Meryl Streep to Jay Z to Hillary Clinton, but for his latest effort the celebrated photographer has put his portraiture to especially good use. A longtime volunteer at the Humane Society of New York, Phibbs has been taking photographs of shelter dogs up for adoption. His new book, Rescue Me, published by Aperture, features more than 70 images of animals that have survived brutal circumstances. Richard Jonas’s emotional descriptions of the dogs’ journeys to their “forever homes” accompany each image, and royalties from book will benefit the HSNY. “The dedicated people who work and volunteer here—who truly will do anything to help their fellow creatures, rescuing them from sometimes unimaginable suffering and launching them into new, happy, and secure lives—are a continual inspiration to me,” Phibbs said. [15 photos total]

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Police found Little Lowell locked in a portable kennel on a hot day in May. Filthy, urine-soaked, and dehydrated, he had apparently been imprisoned for some time. Under his matted coat he was skin and bones. One damaged eye had to be removed—but now things are looking up for Little Lowell. Julia and Bruce kept his original name to honor the HSNY adoption animal caregiver who stayed by six-year-old Lowell’s side throughout his recovery from surgery and the severe fungal infection that followed. “The name reminds us of the work the Humane Society of New York does,” Julia says. (© Richard Phibbs) #
Too ill to feed or walk a dog regularly, Maya’s owner surrendered the 3-year-old Boston terrier to HSNY. When Lori heard that Maya snored, it seemed like a sign: the family pug, who’d died months before, had snored too. When Lori’s family met Maya, “she melted in my son Frank’s arms,” Lori said. (Richard Phibbs) #
Two-year-old Italian greyhound Yoko came to HSNY with two broken legs. Her well-intentioned but busy owners hadn’t ensured that she was properly nourished, leaving her bones brittle. After six months of care, Yoko needed a home where her delicate frame would be protected. Luis and Ashley were new to New York and new to having a dog. “Until Yoko, we found it difficult to speak to people. The first day with her we spoke to more people than in the previous six months.” Their Upper East Side apartment is ten minutes from Central Park, where Yoko gets a couple of walks each day. Luis works in healthcare IT; Ashley, who is an artist, takes Yoko along to work, where “Yoko is the studio assistant.” (© Richard Phibbs) #
The person who owned Zooey’s mother couldn’t cope with the dog’s large litter of nine pit bull puppies. An adopter took on Zooey and one of her sisters, but they proved too much to handle. HSNY welcomed both. When Ben got his first look at Zooey, then 13 months old, “she was so full of life I couldn’t stop thinking of her!” Ben and his girlfriend, Jess, are actors and singers—“When we warm up in the apartment, Zooey loves to sing along.” (© Richard Phibbs) #
The fragile shih tzu was five years old but weighed just two-and- a-half pounds. Her allergic owner had kept her isolated in a separate room before realizing she should live with people who could spend time with her. Now fattened up to three pounds, the renamed Princess Fiona Mae (“She deserved a beautiful princess name,” says rescuer Ashley) has a royal lifestyle that includes four beds, a basketful of designer toys, a suede-and-Swarovski-crystal harness, a nanny, and 5,000 Instagram followers. Ashley, a hair colorist at a popular salon where Fiona Mae is the “unofficial mascot,” takes her teacup princess for three walks a day, but “in winter we do our walks inside stores. Her favorite is Bloomingdale’s.” (© Richard Phibbs) #
Found tied to a tree in Mexico, surrounded by garbage, sharp metal parts, and her own feces, Cosita had been repeatedly mounted and had given birth to two litters. Then malnourished, with tick-borne diseases and a benign tumor on her reproductive organs, Cosita is now “the happiest dog you’ll ever see,” says one of the rescuers who negotiated Cosita’s release, shepherded her through six weeks of intensive medical rehab, and got her to HSNY. “She’s a loving and beautiful being who has touched my heart deeply,” said the rescuer. (© Richard Phibbs) #
Ariel, left, and Lily, right, arrived at HSNY at 8 weeks old. Ariel found a home with Emily’s family. When acting in the Broadway revival of Annie, Emily worked with several dogs who played Sandy, all trained by Bill Berloni, HSNY director of animal behavior and training. “Bill taught us the importance of adoption,” said Emily’s mother, Rachel. “The staff made us confident that Ariel was the right match.” Lily was found by Thomas at Broadway Barks, an adoption event in Shubert Alley. “This bundle jumped from someone else’s arms into mine.” When Thomas’s mother underwent a knee replacement, “Lily had as much to do with her healing as the doctors. When she walked without a walker for the first time, she started crying. Lily licked her tears away, like a Hallmark movie.” (© Richard Phibbs) #
When a homeless man found the abandoned dog, he kept her for five days, then realized she needed medical care and a more stable home. Chelsea came to HSNY with unexplained slashes on her head and body. There was no clue about her past life, but she may have been used as a “bait dog,” a defenseless chained dog set upon by game dogs as part of a dog fight. After extensive treatment, Chelsea regained her outgoing, playful personality. Jennifer and Adam adopted the Labrador mix just before her third birthday, taking her home to Jersey City and their cane corso named Macy. The two love to play together. (© Richard Phibbs) #
A woman found 5-year-old Nino wandering the streets. Sure someone would come looking for him, she took him home, fed him, and bathed him. Sadly, no one came. She couldn’t keep Nino because she already had a dog, so she turned him over to HSNY. Victoria and her husband brought Sasha, their 3-year-old miniature Doberman pinscher, to their first meeting with Nino. “We wanted a companion for her,” Victoria says. Nino fell for Sasha right away, though the two later went through some sibling jealousy. Now they’re fast friends again: “Sasha is glued to Nino’s side.” Victoria’s kindergarten class loves to hear stories about Nino and, she says, “it’s as if he’s been part of our family forever.” (© Richard Phibbs) #
Pampa lost his home the way many dogs do—his owner got sick and couldn’t care for him. Now he lives with Leslie and her other Yorkie, Paco, on the Upper East Side, just a block from HSNY, where Leslie adopted him. When she and Pampa walk by they stop in “and Pampa is always happy to say hi to his old friends.” Pampa sleeps in Leslie’s arms like a baby. Awake, though, he can be a little mischievous and chew her reading glasses. Growing up in Argentina—Pampa is named for the Argentine Pampas—Leslie brought home many strays. An anesthesiologist, she sees “very sick people, but thinking of my dogs always puts a smile on my face.” (© Richard Phibbs) #
When Nuno’s first owner left him with her mother, things got even worse for the bichon frise, who was kept tied to a doorknob and fed but not walked or groomed. A neighbor called HSNY, which persuaded the mother to surrender Nuno. Now ten, Nuno found his happily-ever-after ending on the Upper West Side with Lorea and Dan and daughters Ana and Julia (during Julia’s singing lessons, Nuno puts paws to keyboard and begins to “yap as if he were singing too”). Taking Nuno to Riverside Park, “I’m outdoors several times a day and feel more connected to the park and our neighborhood,” Lorea said. “It wasn’t until we got Nuno that I felt like a real New Yorker.” (© Richard Phibbs) #
The owner said he and his family were moving and couldn’t take Timothy and his brother Kirby along, so he surrendered the 5-year-old dachshund/Chihuahua mixes to the Humane Society of New York. Timothy must have been overwhelmed at being left behind; he had a seizure about an hour later. Now, friskier and more outgoing than his brother Kirby, who has been adopted, Timothy loves to cavort with other dogs on the HSNY rooftop dog run. (© Richard Phibbs) #
A rescuer found Violetta living with too many other puppies in crowded quarters, neglected and uncared-for. The rescuer managed to free them but could not keep them all herself, and she asked the Humane Society of New York to help. HSNY’s program for new arrivals includes complete medical and behavioral evaluation and spaying/neutering, vaccinations, and deworming. A microchip is injected between the shoulder blades as a permanent pet ID. Having received the HSNY treatment, this Westie/poodle mix is “a puppy all the way!” staff members said. (© Richard Phibbs) #
Luna was surrendered to HSNY at 8 months by a family that couldn’t give her the space or time she needed as she grew. The Labrador/Weimaraner mix with the chocolate coat was first adopted by a New Hampshire family with a second dog. HSNY emphasized that if the dogs didn’t get along the family could bring Luna back. “Our motto is, ‘If it’s not your animal, it’s our animal,’” a staffer said. Eventually Luna was returned. Her luck changed when she met Brian and Hilary. “We knew from our first visit that Luna had a home with us forever,” Brian says. The couple lives in Chelsea and makes sure natural athlete Luna gets three to five daily walks. (© Richard Phibbs) #
Found running in the Bronx with no collar and no leash, Davey’s been in motion ever since. “Nothing wears him out,” said co-owner Chris, a foundation director who lives in West Chelsea. “He’s a ball of energy at the dog run—he’s an acrobat, he ducks and dives, he runs between dogs’ legs and jumps over them.” But Davey is “a homebody too,” Chris said. “He likes adventures, but likes to have them in your presence.” Chris and his partner, Tony, chose Davey from his photo, smitten by his mischievous sidewise glance. They kept the name chosen by HSNY, in honor of the husband of the New York City policewoman who found Davey. (© Richard Phibbs) #

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