To the rescue of stray dogs

A photographer captures the plight – and promise – of abandoned dogs.

Traer Scott rescued her first stray while on her honeymoon. She and her husband were in a cab in Antigua when she spied a scrawny Chihuahua mix on the street. The driver stopped, Scott opened the door, and the little dog hurled herself into Scott's arms.

Homeless dogs have been her concern ever since. Last year, Scott published "Shelter Dogs," a collection of photographs of dogs in shelters. This year, her new book is Street Dogs, 50-plus black-and-white photos of strays found in Puerto Rico and Mexico.

"Street Dogs" aims to draw attention to the needs of abandoned dogs. Most are former pets and are friendly and eager to reestablish human relations. Scott found these dogs working in tandem with rescue groups, and many have since been adopted by US families.

In the back of the book are capsules telling the story of each dog. Many (although not all) have met with happy endings.

Skippy, a Corgi mix, was found lame and hungry behind a housing development in Puerto Rico. He lives today with a family in Massachusetts. Sugar, a beauty with two differently colored eyes, was found as a tiny puppy in a cardboard box in the back of a truck in Mexico. Her rescuer, a shelter operator, came to love her so much that she kept her as her own.

In addition to helping publicize the global problem of stray dogs, Scott also hopes her book tells the story of these dogs as individuals, each with a unique personality, and yet all sharing some essentially – and delightfully – canine qualities. Even in harsh conditions, many of these dogs demonstrate affection, friendly curiosity, helpfulness, and even playfulness. Some of the dogs band together to aid one another and to guard any of the group's puppies. One pack of strays fought off violent assailants to protect a human rescuer.

The stories (and photos) of the people who help these dogs are touching as well. Felix Schmidt and his wife rescued a dog and her four puppies in Puerto Rico. They cared for them all but could not afford to keep all five. When the four puppies were taken by a rescue group to be brought to new homes, Schmidt cried and insisted on sending a letter to each new family, explaining the puppies's histories and preferences, and begging for news about them in their new homes.

For those who love dogs, this is a difficult and yet ultimately irresistible subject. It's worth the price of the book just to see the photo of Miss Trish – complete with funny fanglike teeth and a lovable personality – and to learn that she charmed everyone she met along the way as she traded homelessness in Puerto Rico for family life in New Jersey.

Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's book editor.

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