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Gorgeous Photo Series Features Often Ignored Dark-Colored Pets

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In an effort to encourage more people to adopt black, dark-coated animals, photographer Chantal Levesque has been working on a long-term photo project designed to highlight their happiness and push aside stigmas associated with their color and boost adoption rates.

Levesque tells PetaPixel that anecdotal personal experience, as well as experiences from volunteers at shelters that she has spoken to, indicates that black animals, namely black cats and dogs, stay longer in shelters than those of other colors.

“I had a big black dog called Ruth as a kid and shared 16 years of my adult life with a super handsome black cat, Diablo,” Levesque says. “I’ve always loved black animals so I was quite surprised to learn when working with shelters that they were often overlooked and the last to get adopted.”

Black cats in particular carry with them a stigma of bad luck. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals says that black cats are two-thirds less likely to get adopted than white cats and only half as likely to be adopted as tabby cats. Still, there have been studies that state the link between that history and modern adoption rates has been largely debunked.

Still, the experiences of shelter volunteers should not be wholly ignored. As one volunteer Levesque spoke to put it, dark-colored animals are often considered scary or are not as photogenic as other color configurations which leads to them falling in overall popularity.

“What happens is that big black dogs are still considered scary by some people who are less aware or educated on the subject,” the volunteer, named Laurie, says. “This is a reality that I have witnessed as much in shelters as in my personal life. People would rather stop and pet Yuki (a tan coat) who wears the muzzle than Mowgli (black coat) who is, without a doubt, the most sociable of my three dogs.”

Kindness for Cats specifically notes that black cats have the lowest adoption rate and the highest euthanasia rate because of the challenges with photographing them.

“According to Battersea Dogs and Cats Home as well as Dogs Trust, black animals are also more difficult to photograph. Therefore, they are not favored by lovers of photography or Instagram,” Laurie adds.

The Los Angeles Times wrote in 2008 that there is a pervasive idea that dark-coated animals will be passed over for adoption in favor of their lighter counterparts, and while skeptics say the syndrome is an urban legend, shelter volunteers like Laurie and rescue leaders insist the phenomenon is real.

While specific data is either inconclusive or not specifically logged, the experiences of people who work with the animals and in shelters should not be ignored. In the spirit of that belief, Levesque’s photography project called Chasing Shadows aims at creating images that show off what “magnificent, goofy, sweet, funny, adventurous creatures” black dogs and cats really are.

“Through portraits, action shots, and moody environmental photography, like stills from a movie, their stories will be told and adventures will be lived,” she says.

Levesque’s images embrace the animals’ dark coats and place them in desaturated, black and white environments to highlight the contrast of their fur. While the photos may at first glance look to be taken in black and white, the images are actually in full color but framed in such a way as to highlight the monochrome nature of the dark-coated creatures.

“Photographed in many shades of grey, the animal’s personality, spunk, liveliness, and of course their badassery can be displayed without any distractions. The only color being the flicker in their eye that lets us gaze into their kind, loving souls.”

Below are several animals accompanied by the stories from their newly adopted families.

Balzac
 | “Balzac is a thief: he likes to steal stuffed animals or cushions and he comes and waves them under our noses. 
He is a big cuddle bug, a dog with a tender heart … he loves everyone and all the dogs he meets. He loves to come and put his head on our knees to beg for love and scratches.”
Ruby
 | “She loves her routine. Around 8:30 in the evening she comes to sit in front of me and she stares at me. The first few times it took me a while to understand, I wondered what she wanted. I finally understood that she wants to go and get tucked in my bed. 
One evening we were in on holiday around the camp fire and around 8:30 she did her same routine. She wanted to be tucked in! I had to improvise a bed on a camping chair with covers. She slept there, happy by my side!”
Bruce
 | “He loves to take long hikes and is probably better than me at it. He is a pretty good guard dog for his tiny size. Although he has autoimmune hemolytic anemia he is a hyper and happy little guy who loves taking his medication and will come get me when it’s time to take them.”
Clochette
 | “She has thumbs on all fours! And she can sense when someone is not feeling well and she comes to cuddle (contrary to her independent usual self).”
Leila
 | “She is a finicky dog on food. She doesn’t eat fruits or vegetables, she doesn’t even like peanut butter, but she LOVES tofu and cilantro.
She might look like a big mean dog with her pointed ears and black fur, and she might scare people. But what people don’t know is that deep down she is the big coward! She is afraid of everything: people, bikes, even the electric toothbrush!”
Leyla
 | “Leyla sleeps with me and she decided since she was a baby that the second place in the bed was for her! I’d always dreamed of having an affectionate dog, can say I got what I wanted!”
Loko
 | “Everyone says border collies are crazy, and after five minutes with him at the shelter, we knew that Max (his old name) was not for him. We thought Loko suited him much better.
He does this thing where he turns onto his back and swings his tail from side to side, like a happy dance lying on his back.

”
Louky | “
Every night she lies down with all fours in the air and snores like a tractor! I’ve never heard a dog snore that loud!”
Mowgli | “Despite his badass appearance, Mowgli is a real man’s boy. He’s the sweetest of my pack!
 He purrs, has an uncontrollable passion for bananas (if a stranger eats bananas nearby, Mowgli will keep his eyes soft until he gets his desire!). And gives hugs.”
Oochie
 | “Quite timid by nature, she loves to chatter, hence her nickname oochie-nini (because of my aunt who chatters and also the one who fed and survived oochie and her brothers and sisters in 2015). As soon as she comes in from the outside she lets us know that she is there. In winter in the morning when she gets up, she makes herself heard and she likes to come to be petted, so she comes to knead on me and presses her face against mine while I pet her, she is so happy that she sticks out her little tongue and drools.”
Shadow
 | “He’s 13 and still fit! It always impresses people. When we hike up big mountains people often stop us to ask us how old he is and they are always surprised that he is also in such good shape. They always tell me that he has a ‘nice muscular build.'”
Yoko
 | “She brings back whatever she finds on the floor that seems out of place. She is extremely delicate and does not damage anything with her teeth. It can be very useful when we drop something on the ground! We put that to good use and she now brings us beer on demand! I also taught her to pick up her toys and bring them back to her storage basket. Yoko loves to work. It does mean, however, that she brings back the beer at inconvenient times!”

Levesque hopes that this project will continue to grow and encourages anyone to submit their dark-coated animal for consideration for inclusion into this project here.

“Black animals rock, let’s show the world!”


Image credits: Photos by Chantal Levesque and used with permission.

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