Today we feature photography by Jess Lessard from California who volunteers at an animal sanctuary called The Cat House. As a regular volunteer, she gets the chance to help photograph cats, kittens, and even some puppies to help bring awareness to the sanctuary and aid in the adoption of the animals.
The Cat House on the Kings is the largest no-kill, no-cage cat sanctuary in California, housing over 700+ cats on a 12 acre property right alongside the Kings River in Parlier, CA.
The Cat House is a dream life for a cat without a home, with plenty of trees to climb, couches, tables, chairs, computers and pretty much everything else imaginable to climb and sleep on. For the human visitor, it is often a surreal experience, as cats rule at the CHOTK. They are literally everywhere you look and sit. The sanctuary is also a permanent home for some, including many senior cats and cats with FIV.
The tireless work done by the staff and volunteers is so important in the local community. Since the sanctuary was founded over 23 years ago they have saved the lives of over 23,000 cats and 7,000 dogs and still counting. Providing a safe place to live while waiting to be adopted is key as Fresno County (where the shelter is located) euthanizes a frightening number of animals – roughly 65,000 a year.
While the Lunar New Year is traditionally spent with family and loved ones, five elderly Chinese women from Weinan, Shaanxi Province chose to spend the holiday taking care of over 1,300 stray dogs, just as they do every day. Six years ago, Wang Yanfang established a dog asylum as a way to save strays from the pound, where they could be euthanized. Since then, the 60-year-old and four other volunteers—all in their 60s and 70s—have gotten up at 4AM every morning so they can prepare 400 kilograms of food for the hungry pups. The shelter, which is supported solely by donations, makes sure that these animals are fed, cared for, and even groomed regularly.
Despite their good intentions, local media reports that the elderly women have faced other challenges like being bitten by dogs who are less tame than others. But in the end, it’s all worth it to a selfless animal lover like Wang, who has adored animals since she cared for her first dog back in 2000. According to Tencent News, she says, “They’re like your children, you can’t bear to be apart from them, or to lose them.”
Dogs can be some of the most loving, loyal, closest companions that a person can have—which makes losing them that much more difficult, as photographer Zhenia Bulawka learned when she was forced to say goodbye to her beloved, 11-year-old pitbull named Dyuki (a.k.a. Mr. Dukes). For two years, Dukes had fought against Grade III mast cell cancer, but Bulawka and her boyfriend Christian knew it was only a matter of time before the dog’s life drew to a close. Knowing that the end was near, the couple took Dukes and their two other dogs, Ruby and Violet, on their very first—and Dukes’ last—trip to the ocean in order to properly say goodbye to their wonderful pet
The family’s vacation to the beach in Assateague, Maryland last August was a bittersweet time, but Bulawka and Christian were determined to make it special for Dukes. After driving for three hours, they finally arrived at the seashore, where they played, swam, and had a picnic on the sand. Back at the hotel, they watched a beautiful sunset together before curling up and snuggling together on the bed. A month later, Dukes passed away, but his humans and his canine sisters can take comfort in remembering those magical, sunshine-filled days together by the sea.
“Dukes was my best friend,” Bulawka writes on The Dodo. “He was also my muse, as his passion for life served as a constant source of inspiration to me. I could never tire of photographing him. Since his passing, I’ve been told numerous times ‘how lucky Dukes was to have me.’ But in fact, it was me who was so lucky to have him. He was the smartest, funniest, most loyal, incredibly strong, yet equally sensitive dog—all wrapped into one perfect pittie package. He changed my life and I will miss him forever.”