By Katie Walsh
It’s a refrain I’ve become accustomed to hearing from my friends upon meeting my dog, Ren: “She’s so much cuter in person!”
While I’m appreciative that they recognize that why yes, I DO have the most adorable pup in the entire world, thank you very much, it also makes me a tiny bit sad because I know why they think that: It’s the color of her fur.
Let me back up a bit.
I wanted to adopt from Rural Dog Rescue because I liked their stance of rooting for the “Underdog” -- the dogs less likely to be adopted for various reasons. Years earlier, my sister took a chance on a little shih tzu that nobody wanted because he only has one eye. That dog she adopted -- Teddy Bear, my dog nephew -- has brought immeasurable joy to our family. To this day it hurts my heart to think that people were passing up that loving, fuzzy little guy because he can only wink, not blink.
In any case, seeing Teddy get a happy home inspired me to seek out a dog with similar bad adoption luck. And that was what led me to a Rural Dog Rescue adoption event at Howl to the Chief. I wanted an Underdog.
Before the event, I perused every dog on Rural Dog Rescue’s adoptable list and decided on one I wanted to meet. But, when we got to Howl to the Chief, something unexpected happened. Amid a dozen excited pups prancing about on the brick sidewalk, one I could have sworn I hadn’t seen on the website caught my eye. A little black dog with gigantic ears was standing upright on her hind legs, seemingly performing circus tricks.
“Wait, who’s this?” I asked.
“This is Ren,” said an RDR volunteer. “She loves to stand like that.”
I knelt down to greet her and totally fell in love. We spent the rest of the event practicing walking her, running with her and playing with her, and we filed adoption papers later that afternoon.
Happy as I was that we were getting a dog, I was flummoxed. How could I have missed this little girl? On the car ride home from the event, I had my husband pull up Ren’s adoption listing on his phone. As he was reading the words, I realized I recognized them. I had read Ren’s listing before; I just had totally overlooked it. I looked at the picture that accompanied the listing:
And, well… she’s so much cuter in person, frankly. That picture just does not do her justice. She looks… I don’t know, I can’t even describe it. Lacking expressiveness? Definitely not the animated little pup I’ve come to know and love. Whatever it is, I can tell you for a fact she’s simply way more adorable in person than in that photo.
And that, my friends, is why she’s an Underdog. Ren doesn’t photograph well.
I guess it’s a phenomenon that animal shelters know all too well. Dogs with black fur don’t generate as much adoption interest because the photos that go with their listings just do not show them very well.
According to official White House photographer Pete Souza, who has added “black dog photography” to his resume on account of having taken many photos of first pets Bo and Sunny Obama, two Portuguese water dogs, something about the black fur “tends to suck up the light.” As someone who has tried time and time again to snap a good pic of my black dog, I can say for a fact this is true. Observe:
See? I can never get the lighting to accurately reflect the expression on her face! Add to it the fact that I’ve never taken a photography class in my life and my only recourse for taking a picture is through a smartphone that I recently dropped in the toilet, and yeah, you can see why all the pics are garbage.
There are actually a ton of websites with tips on how to take better photos of black dogs, and most of the tips revolve around finding proper lighting. For what it’s worth, Ren fares a little better when we’re talking Instagram. The “Clarendon” filter really brings out the brindle in her fur:
But I guess what makes me sad is that I’m one of those people -- I nearly overlooked the dog who has become my baby, the thing I look forward to the most on any given day. My hiking and running buddy would not be my top exercise motivation today had I not physically met her. The little cuddlebug who snuggles up next to my thigh and snoozes with her head on my leg at night might never have gotten that sleeping place if fate hadn’t placed us both at Howl to the Chief on that day in December. She’s just so much cuter in person.
So don’t scroll past that blurry photo mess of dark fur. You will cheat yourself out of something amazing. Behind the lens, I guarantee, is a wonderful pup -- one who’s so much cuter in person.