When I first started going to Lollypop Farm, my motives were simple.  I love photography, and I love animals.  I also wanted to make up for adopting a dog and returning it to the shelter.  I volunteered there for almost 7 years, taking pictures of cats and small animals.  During that whole time, I never felt welcome there.  No amount of staring at the floor could blunt the hostility I felt as I walked the hallways.  I understand that a middle aged man in a shelter full of young people seems out of place.  I thought that time might blunt that hostility.  Surely, several years of averted eyes and friendly overtures would convince them that I wasn’t the terrible person their eyes and actions accused me of being.  My perseverance didn’t work.  A couple people there started to actively try to have me kicked out.   They reported me to the volunteer manager for insignificant things.

I took a picture of a boa constrictor once.  It struck at the camera lens as I was taking the picture.  It’s a natural reaction for a snake seeing a foreign object entering its tank.  The snake wasn’t harmed and I got a good picture for the adoption website.  An angry volunteer accosted me for abusing the snake, and I had to sit with the reptile specialist several times.  I’ve owned several snakes, I’m familiar with their characteristics, this was just a repeated attempt by one person to get me in trouble.  I stopped taking reptile pictures after that experience.

I got in trouble for taking small animal pictures.  The same person found me in the small animal room once taking rabbit pictures.  She reported me to the volunteer manager for harassing the animals.   I stopped taking pictures in the small animal room after that. I was reported for holding a ferret while taking its picture.  Ferret’s are slippery critters, and opening a cage to take a picture just lets a ferret run around the room for a minute.  I stopped taking ferret pictures after that.  At the end, I felt like I could only take pictures in the cat adoption area where there were several witnesses that I wasn’t abusing the animals.  Taking 3-4 pictures a week wasn’t worth going there, so I stopped going.  I respect the work they do at Lollypop to protect and nurture the animals in their care.  I just don’t think they treat their humans half as well.

EDIT 10-18-11: During the time that I volunteered at Lollypop, I kept 2,500 pictures.  My habit was to only keep a few pictures that I liked artistically each week.  I think I met over 4,500 cats while I was there.

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