Dale Ryan is a dog-loving photographer and writer. Her debut book, Sleeping With the Beast, a coffee table photo-essay book, was featured in the Los Angeles Times Summer Reading List of 2012 and mentioned in the New York Post. Her newest book, The Painted Pilgrim, is for children and it highlights messages about being unique, pet adoption, and loving dogs.
Dale, your debut book, Sleeping with the Beasts, a photography and essay book on dogs, is now followed up by a children’s book about dogs, The Painted Pilgrim. Why do you love dogs so much?
I love dogs for so many reasons. Without a doubt, dogs have an intrinsic gift called, “unconditional love”. They truly are my best friend and many people feel the same way about their dogs.
Why is it important to teach children, through books like The Painted Pilgrim, that it’s important to take care of innocent creatures like dogs?
Dogs come into the world (as do many creatures) innocent. Unlike humans, dogs do not have a voice. Without a voice, so many creatures are vulnerable.
The theme of the story is about how we should come to accept those different than us. In this case, a pink dog named Pellegrino needed to be loved. Why do we discriminate when it comes to the breed or looks of a dog?
There are so many factors involved with dog discrimination. Many dogs are ‘labeled’ and bred for specific reasons. For example, in the Painted Pilgrim, Pellegrino was unlike any other dog because he came into the world with bright pink fur. Therefore, a scientist wanted to do experiments on him. As far as other breeds, Buddha, the Pit Bull said, “Unfortunately, lots of folks make judgments, without understanding the truth.” Let’s face the truth, judgment is a polite word for prejudice and discrimination follows that path of thinking. From breeding dens to advertising agents, dogs are constantly marketed. A century ago, Pit Bulls were responsible for watching young children. In the 21st century, many dogs have been bred by nasty people with bad intentions. Yet, with respect and proper guidance, these dogs are truly wonderful smart companions.
Your book is also about pet adoption. Do shelters need to be stricter in who it lets adopt dogs—or should they loosen their standards?
Dogs Shelters are getting a lot of positive attention. There was a time when people would dismiss the notion of adopting and go directly to a dog breeder. The Painted Pilgrim is both about a dog shelter and unwanted dogs of a particular breed. I intentionally did not write about mutts but I focused on certain breeds that wind up in shelters. Note: I mentioned some breeds that we rarely see anymore. So many breeds are quickly disappearing. Extinction comes in many forms. From fish to frogs, dinosaurs to dogs -extinction is real. Now, to answer the 2nd part of your question… We have to allow “not for profit “ organizations to their job. People who work in shelters have a keen sense (just like canines) about folks who want to adopt dogs.
If someone wants to adopt a dog, what should they be prepared to do in order to have a successful adoption?
Adopting dogs….I love this thought process because people usually think of dogs as ownership but when people adopt an animal, ownership goes out the door and companionship is greeted with open arms. As far as Shelter Dogs, many people know immediately what dog they want. Love at 1st sight comes to mind. Others, have a practical tendency to think about the environment and conditions in which their dog will be living. People need to consider many factors, but love is the first step and patience is the 2nd. Like kids, dogs need love, attention, and guidance.
Why do dogs make people feel comfortable and loved?
Dogs that comfort...Dogs have this wonderful ability to take care of us in a way others cannot. Then again, cats do, horses as well. Yet, somewhere we were all taught that dogs are man’s best friend. Must say, I have to agree with this saying. Overall, dogs are faithful and caring. So many people become disappointed with other people but dogs always make us feel at ease. Canines have the ability to tap into our needs and always make us smile!
Why do children love their dog?
Children and dogs…From the moment a child begins to look at his/her world, animals easily catch their attention. Children have a natural curiosity to be with animals and especially with dogs. Personally, I call it a “primal want”. Dogs aren’t particularly sophisticated, but we sense their good intentions and appreciate their clever responses. Children quickly grasp that the world can be a complicated place but dogs have a way of making children feel grounded.
How should parents encourage their kids to treat and take care of dogs?
Kids watching over their pups…Most children want a dog but some parents are hesitant due to other obligations. More importantly, when a family decides to have a dog, everyone should be involved with the care of the new family member. Dogs have a magical way of teaching kids to be responsible and more importantly, kids begin to understand the meaning of empathy.
How can we increase the number of dog adoptions?
Increasing dog adoptions. Excellent question. I think we have to start with the Dog Shelter. Some people have reservations about adopting dogs. One reason is that people have no idea where the dog came from and what they experienced. Buddha tells Pellegrino of the frightful experience being held captive. For example, aggression or skittish issues make people a tad queasy. Dog shelters need more behavioral therapists. Behavioral therapists can help stray dogs adjust to the world. One way of insuring the wellness of shelter/dogs is to donate money (as in a designated gift) that directly goes to the hiring of a therapist. Jobs are always an issue and this would be a greater venue of employment for people who love to work with animals.
Please reveal what dogs truly teach us.
Dogs are far more honest with their intentions. Canines like people have their own distinct traits. Dogs are quite clear about their needs, with no disguise, costume, or manipulation. Children are keenly perceptive observing an adult’s behavior. Nonetheless, children can always rely on a dog for being just who they simply are.
Why are so many dogs abandoned or given up for adoption?
Abandonment issues- because a dog has no “voice”, people put dogs into the animal category and find dismissing them easier based on the fact that they are not man’s equals. Other issues are family break ups, moving, lack of money, etc. The list is long!
What kind of dogs do you have?
Tell us about them. Until a couple of years ago, I had a pack of 5 dogs and now we have 2. My dogs are the best…then again, everyone thinks their dogs are the best (kind of like the way we view having children). Both dogs are so different in personality-One Shar-Pei, named Rupert who also has Weimaraner. He’s ethereal, loyal and rather mellow. On the other hand, Clementine, is a smart girl with a huge personality, She’s mainly Shar-Pei but possibly with Pit Bull … I don’t know for sure… whatever their blood lines are, completely irrelevant. Just know, I love them!