Critical Mass: Carli Davidson

Looking at portfolios from Critical Mass 2011…

Carli Davidson is a dog person. Many of her series revolve around the world of dogs, and Pets with Disabilities is no different, but it is pogninant and heartfelt. You may have seen Carli’s wonderful series, Shake, about dogs in motion on a variety of blogs recently. A Portland photographer, she has a background in both commercial and documentary photography, as well as over 7 years experience as an animal trainer and caretaker. Her love of both art and animals led her to work as an animal care technician and photographer for the Oregon Zoo, as well as a volunteer photographer for local animal rescues. Her photography has been published in Portland Monthly, The Atlantic, The Village Voice, The Oregonian, The Portland Tribune, and numerous Zoo publications. She is also a regular photo contributor to Andrew Sullivan’s The Daily Dish.

Pets with Disabilities Project: Last winter while spending a rainy day at the beach I was struck by something I had never seen before, a wheelchair bound dog playing fetch with its owner. I watched for over an hour as the dog ran back and fourth along the water, tongue flapping, feet wet and covered in sand, seemingly unaware of the lifeless limbs that trailed behind him.

After this I decided to start photographing local pets with disabilities and interviewing their owners to find out more about their lives. These are people who’ve opted to do whatever it takes to maintain their pets quality of life, to have surgeries, to change diapers, to buy apparatuses, to put in the extra time and effort to make their friends comfortable.

These are some of animals I have come across since starting this series. The owners are dedicated and happy just to have their friends around, totally undeterred by the extra work put towards taking care of animals with special needs. There is a common theme of inspiration and admiration for their pets ability to quickly recover their spirit and personality after the disabilities onset. Many people tell me that seeing these animals helps put their own struggles in perspective. “They keep going, and want nothing more than to play!” States one pet owner.

I have watched every one of these animals display what I consider to be happiness in the face of physical adversity. While these animals may look different they are not sad, nor generally in any pain, they are in fact living a full life with owners who adore them.