by Judy Langdon
As animal lovers, we know the joy of welcoming new pets, both puppies and rescues, into our homes and hearts. We care for them, celebrate their milestones and lives, and finally, experience the sadness of losing them.
We also search for unique cards featuring animals, especially ones that give back to the community and animal welfare groups, to send to friends and loved ones during all those same special moments.
Local photographer Sherry Stinson of TylerDog Photography in Bartlesville and Lori Griffin McPherson, a 1996 graduate of the University of Tulsa, both champion for animal causes through pet photography and greeting cards.
Recently I contacted Stinson and McPherson to learn more about how their pet photography ventures work.
Stinson has been a pet lover since childhood, and she’s spent most of her life with a camera in her hand. “A good day is one spent taking pictures,” she says. “A great day is taking pictures of pets.”
It was the death of her adult Doberman Pinscher, Tyler, many years ago that prompted Stinson to begin TylerDog Photography, creating pet sympathy cards in his memory as a way for her to “give back” to the community. TylerDog Photography eventually expanded into birthday, all-occasion and holiday cards.
“For years, we sold our cards strictly on eBay and by word of mouth, experiencing great success with these methods,” says Stinson on her website, Tylerdog.com.
Unfortunately, Stinson has recently deleted her online store due to the dip in the economy, although she has placed a couple of her more popular variety packs on the website. “Until I decide on another e-commerce option, that’s all you’ll see online for sale.”
TylerDog has been featured in local and national media, including KJRH Channel 2 Works for You, Tulsa; Tulsa’s News Channel 8; USA Today; Animal Wise Radio and The Tulsa World.
Recently she was involved, through a petition of 9,200 signatures garnered in two weeks, in the overall defeat of Oklahoma Senate Bill SB32, which would have allowed cities to restrict ownership of any breed dog, enabling breed specific legislation to become law.
TP: Have you been a dog lover all your life? Do you have favorite breeds?
Stinson: Yes, I have. I love them all, but have owned Doberman Pinschers for almost 30 years, and I also have a special place in my heart for Pit Bulls. They have a way of working their way into your heart (and lap).
TP: How do you learn about the dogs featured on your cards? What are their typical ages, sizes and histories?
Stinson: Each dog featured on a greeting card comes with a story, which I ask the owner to provide. There’s no set age, size or history to any of the models who appear on our cards. It’s everything from a tiny puppy to a grand old senior with every breed imaginable, and a few you can’t quite imagine, in between!
TP: Are proceeds or partial proceeds given to non-profit animal welfare groups, and if so, which ones?
Stinson: I started a “Shelter Dogs & Alley Cats” line that features shelter dogs and cats. Each card sold from this line has a portion of the sale going to each individual rescue the animal may have come from. It could be Legacy of Hope Dog Rescue in Tulsa, as I’ve photographed several of their dogs, or any other shelter I’ve helped across the state
TP: Have there been any dogs you have featured on your cards with very memorable stories?
Stinson: Plenty. One of the hardest cards to create was one featuring Grady, my Doberman pinscher who passed away six years ago. i felt he would make a wonderful sympathy card, and in writing it, i was in tears the whole time. I’ve also featured dogs who have wonderful rescue stories to go along with their photos, such as Hayden, a Presa Canario, who was saved from a gassing facility in Altus, then adopted a few short months later by a wonderful family.
he literally was at death’s door, waiting to be gassed before he was saved by a local veterinarian. I helped with all the dogs saved from that area over the summer and grew quite attached to Hayden, so he became a greeting card.
TP: What is the most rewarding part of having a business like this, as well as the most difficult?
Stinson: The focus of my photography business is client and rescue photography. I specialize in creating timeless portraits for my clients, and in turn, I give back to rescues and shelters by donating free photo shoots for their adoptable animals. That truly is the focus of what I’m doing. We’re seeing adoption rates increase with the better photos and greater social media presence. In the seven weeks I’ve been helping the city of Tulsa animal Welfare, their January euthanasia rate was only 45 percent.
Their yearly average last year was 62 percent. That’s quite a decrease and Jean Letcher, the director, feels our photos and the increased social media presence is what’s helping bring that number down. The most difficult thing about rescue photography is knowing an animal I photograph Wednesday might not be there when I go back a week later.
TP: How is your business making a positive difference in the lives of dogs and dog lovers?
Stinson: I‘m creating timeless memories, whether it be with a portrait or a greeting card. I’ve had people tell me when they receive a TylerDog greeting card, they don’t throw it away; they put it in a drawer and keep it. Knowing I’ve touched someone’s heart through my work is what really matters to me. I would love to be able to have all my greeting cards available online, but truthfully, cost and lack of help is what prevents it [for now]. For more information please visit www.tylerdog.com. Hooray for the Underdog!
Lori Mcpherson serves as the “community Guru” for Hooray For The Underdog!, a photography venture founded in 2006 by husband and wife team Janet Healey and Joe Grisham, headquartered in downtown Dallas. Priding itself on being a give back company, HFTU! even prompted Oprah Winfrey to call it one of the best companies in the U.S. that gives back two years in a row.
a resident of the Dallas area for the past eight years, Mcpherson says it was at a local post office in 2010 where she first learned of Hooray For The Underdog! cards. Mcpherson, mom to her rescue dog Presley, joined the HFTU! team in 2012 after she and her husband began participating in Hooray!’s “First Thursday” outreach.
“Presley was adopted from the humane Society of Tulsa in October 2007, and he is now 7 years old,” she says. “he has been photographed for the Hooray For The Underdog! line, and his card should be available this summer.”
According to Mcpherson, Hooray For The Underdog!’s mission “is to educate others on the importance of animal rescue and adoption through beautiful photography. We are a ‘giveback’ company.
“The Healey-Grisham team has spent more than a decade photographing homeless animals once a month to enable shelters to find homes for their rescues. The first Thursday of every month we invite local rescue organizations into our studio to photograph their animals and allow them to present our photos on their websites and on Facebook.
“On the back of all of our cards we tell the story of the animals featured. Most of the animals that we use already have families, but all were rescued,” she says.
Although Hooray For The Underdog! products can be found at large retailers such as Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Hobby Lobby and Sunrise Greetings (a division of Hallmark Cards), Mcpherson says, “We are currently bringing our line back ‘in house…’ we are building our brand every day, and we even hope to expand beyond the United States.”
In addition, Healey and Grisham just launched their first cookbook, “The Dog Gone Good cookbook,” with author Gayle Pruitt.
TP: How does Hooray For The Underdog! learn about rescue dogs used in its various products?
McPherson: Janet and Joe find dogs everywhere, sometimes at local rescue events and even at the dog park. Considering we do photograph homeless animals once a month, often we find a “model” for our next card, cookbook or promotion.
TP: Do you have a special memory of any dogs in particular that have been featured?
McPherson: We actually found a precious terrier mix during a First Thursday photo shoot that was homeless, and we knew she would be it was really special that her new mom was able to bring her in. We often get to see the work come “full circle,” which is why we are dedicated to what we do. We know that the best way to get an animal adopted is through beautiful photography.
TP: What is the greatest accomplishment for you personally, as an employee of Hooray For The Underdog!? Have you always planned to combine your work in communications with an animal welfare organization?
McPherson: as a relatively new employee, I think my greatest accomplishment is yet to come. I am a true fan of this beautiful work and the mission behind what we are doing every day. i want hooray For The Underdog! to become a household name in the world of animal welfare and to partner with large organizations to make a difference.
Gina Gardner, president and founder of Humane Society of Tulsa asked me to serve in a volunteer capacity as the merchandising coordinator, and that’s what I have done from Dallas to help my home community.
When Janet and Joe approached me about working for them, I knew there would not be a better fi t for my passion and commitment to saving homeless animals in Tulsa, Dallas-Fort Worth and around the country.
For more information please visit www.hoorayfortheunderdog.com