Helping pets find their homes

Published 8:49 pm Monday, August 13, 2012

Dottie Walker calms Missy the cat before she takes the cat's portrait


Dottie Walker is a lifesaver.

She averages about two per week.

Walker is responsible for the weekly photos of the animal-shelter dogs and cats that run in the Daily News. Thanks to her efforts, each of the pets featured in the paper have been adopted.

Walker takes the volunteer job seriously. When asked what she does when she goes on vacation, she said nothing interferes with her weekly 8 a.m. Monday appointment at the Betsy Bailey Nelson Animal Control Facility.

“That’s my commitment,” Walker said. “Nothing gets in the way of that.”

Walker has the appointment down to a routine. She uses a small hallway between the lobby and the education room because of its natural light. Linda Judson, an officer at the shelter, selects a cat and a dog each week. Draped in a blue blanket, Judson holds the pet while Walker tries to coax that “ready to go home” pose from the animal in front of her. She snaps tons of photos with her digital camera then spends hours editing the photo, removing any sign of Judson.

Walker’s love for animals got her involved in the Humane Society and led to her volunteer work.

When Walker first moved to the area about 25 years ago, she said the Daily News staff used to come out and take a photo of a shelter pet.

Last November, Walker approached Managing Editor Christ Prokos and asked if the paper would start running photos of adoptable pets again. Walker was on a mission to save one particular cat named Daisy, that she had grown attached to as a volunteer. Prokos said it would have to be a weekly submission and Walker accepted the responsibility.

“I feel badly that I didn’t start before that,” Walker said. “I’m just trying to help the animals. I wish I could do more.”

Walker said she could no longer bear to visit the shelter’s kennels and see animals with an uncertain fate. She stressed that there were plenty of volunteer jobs at the shelter that did not involve working directly with the animals.

She also never asks about the pets she photographs. She would hate to hear bad news.

According to Chief Animal Control Officer Todd Taylor, there is no bad news. Walker’s weekly photos draw people into the shelter. For every pet that is featured, there are at least 10 families who will come in to adopt it.

The pets are adopted on a first-come, first-served basis. Usually, the nine families who miss out on the pet of the week leave with one of the other available animals.

Walker is quick to point out that the shelter has many volunteers who do far more than take a picture. In fact, the shelter could not run without the dedicated group of volunteers, said Margaret Petersen, volunteer coordinator at the shelter and vice president of the Beaufort County Humane Society.

Petersen said the shelter is in desperate need of weekend volunteers, especially people who can work on Sundays. For more information, contact the Betsy Bailey Nelson Animal Control Facility at 946-4517.