I feel blessed to be able to make a profession out of doing what I love, and I try to never take this for granted. Many factors have come in to play to allow this to be so. And one of the most important things I can do is to give something back in order to help make the world a little bit better.

In 2010 I began volunteering with a wonderful animal rescue group in Houston called Pup Squad. Pup Squad is made up of an amazing group of people who primarily foster rescued momma dogs and their pups. The majority of these pups are fostered in people's homes versus any type of facility. You see, puppies don't have fully developed immunities, so they have a better chance of survival if they are not crammed into a center with all sorts of germs floating around. The photographs are used for Petfinder profiles, biographies for the dogs, placement on websites, and for general marketing purposes.....but all in hopes of helping to speed up the process of adoption so that these animals can get to a permanent home as quickly as possible. Pup Squad is always looking for more volunteers, monetary donations, fosters, and/or donation items. Please contact them through their website (click on that earlier link) for more info.

Additionally, I began volunteering for Guardian Pit Bull Rescue in hopes to help this midunderstood breed. Guardian is a relatively new group of volunteers who also foster their dogs in home. They meet on Sunday afternoons along the Waterway in The Woodlands to walk the dogs so that people in the community can see for themselves what beautiful and sweet creatures they are.

Having moved from Houston to Greenvile, SC I am only able to periodically help these groups in Houston but have begun working with others in my new area. These groups include Carolina Basset Hound Rescue and Phoenix Rising Border Collie Rescue of South Carolina. I hope to expand my volunteer time in years to come as well as provide inservicing to rescue groups regarding photographing puppies and dogs so that more of these cuties can put their best sides forward on Petfinder and snag the hearts of just the right people.

Another cause that has become very important to me is The National Canine Cancer Foundation. We lost our 14 1/2 year old Shih Tzu to Lymphoma in December of 2010. In May of 2011, I lost a sister to cancer, as well. The NCCF raises money to fund research to help find treatments and hopefully a cure for canine cancers. Many of the findings benefit the research and treatment of cancers in humans, too. I have teamed up with a group of national and international photographers as part of Smile For A Cure. Session fees from photo shoots completed in August and September are donated to the NCCF. If you are interested in booking a shoot but don't live in Houston, you can go to the Smile website and locate a photographer in your area. And if you are in Houston and wish to help, I would love the opportunity to work with you and your pup(s) to help fight this awful disease. Please contact me at fetchmel@aol.com if you would like additional information.

I am a proud Professional Service Member of HeARTs Speak, an organization of artists helping animals in need. This group has a mission to bring together artists and animal rescues in order to raise awareness throughout their communities. For further information, please visit the HeARTs Speak website.