Dianne hails from Vermont. She is the founder of Fluffermutter Rescue Photography and Kids 4 Paws. She first picked up a camera when she was six years old. She has a special gift for capturing an animal’s personality. After her cat Noah passed away on May 6, 2011, she was looking for a way to honor his memory and to heal from the loss. She’d read that volunteering was a great way to accomplish that.
She contacted Central Vermont Humane Society (CVHS) to see if they needed someone to take photos of the animals. They said yes, and it took off from there! She’s also photographed dogs at Random Rescue, Good Karma Rescue, and Heidi’s Haven Rescue.
Over the past few years, Dianne has met some amazing rescue animals, including Kandi who was transported from a high intake shelter in Georgia and became Dianne’s little assistant—always by her side on photo shoots—until she was adopted into a great home.
Dianne also knows the heartbreak of rescue. She says, “I try to focus on the lives that I have had a part in saving, and even though an animal may not have made it out of the shelter, they won’t be forgotten because I captured them in a photo. I also reread ‘The Starfish Story‘!”Dianne appreciates the support from fellow HeARTs Speak members. “At one time or another we have all been through some very difficult times. I have found that people who don’t do what we do, don’t understand the heartbreak that comes with the territory. It is awesome to have so many in the HeARTs Speak family who do understand.”
Dianne is the founder of Kids 4 Paws, an incredible group of young photographers and volunteers who work to improve the conditions and quality of life for animals in shelters. Recently, she took the time to answer questions about this work.
What inspired you to create this program? How is it going? Where are you in the process of fundraising for Kids 4 Paws nonprofit status?
There is a special bond between kids and animals. I wanted to shatter the image that shelter animals are broken or there is something wrong with them. Our mission statement talks about kids developing a healing bond with the animals, as well as improving the quality and/or conditions of their lives, while inspiring others to promote kindness and compassion. Putting kids and shelter animals together has been such a great experience all around. Not only are we helping to save animals, the kids are gaining self-esteem and more confidence in their abilities.
I have a small group of local kids, who I bring to Random Rescue to volunteer as well as take photos. We walk and socialize the dogs and do a little bit of training and cleaning. The kids love it and so does Sam, who owns the rescue! I have heard from parents that this program has made such a difference in the lives of their children. I love to tell them that their children have made such a difference in the lives of these animals.
In addition to the Kids 4 Paws group, I bring two additional groups of kids to Random Rescue every week as part of my regular job. There’ve been some incredible changes in these kids…increased self-esteem, better social skills, and it has inspired several of them to go back to their schools to collect items that are desperately needed by the rescue.
Fundraising is very slow going and incredibly challenging! Luckily we have the best veterinarian ever! Dr. Emily is very supportive of Kids 4 Paws, and she sells the Picatso prints and necklaces, made by Dawn Brunell of Sunz Jewels, at Waterbury Veterinary Hospital. We donate half of the profits to their stray animal fund and the other half goes to Kids 4 Paws.
Random Rescue currently has a dog that was severely neglected and has required significant veterinary care. We asked Dr. Emily to give the Kids 4 Paws money to Random Rescue so that we could help the dog get the care that she needed. We felt that helping the dog was more important than putting the money towards the non-profit application. Currently, we don’t have any money to put towards applying for non-profit status, but we’re working on it. We hope to work on some fundraising ideas so if anyone has any suggestions, please contact me!
What is the best part of working with these young photographers?
These kids are AMAZING! Alissa Umberger and Eve Taylor are both Junior HeARTs Speak members and have so much talent and compassion for animals. I always tell Alissa that she is a creative genius…she always amazes me with her ideas and photos!
Eve lives locally so we go out to take photos whenever possible. I met Eve when I made a “guest appearance” at the kids’ camp at CVHS last summer. She didn’t have much experience with photography, but the photos that she took with an old point and shoot that day were phenomenal! Her mother contacted me this fall via my website, and we have been working together ever since.
My goal is to get Alissa to Vermont for a week this summer so that Alissa, Eve, and I can spend some time working on Kids 4 Paws.
How did you and Deanna Maxwell team up with Kids 4 Paws and Paws for Charity? What is it like teaming with another HeARTs Speak member?
I love working with fellow HeARTs Speakers! Deanna did all of the editing, resizing, and printing of the Picatsos. She also designed the logo that we use. The logo is actually a photo that I took of my cat Mia, creating a Picatso on my iPad.
I am also lucky to have Kelly Schulze in the area as well! Kelly and I have participated in the Walk for the Animals events at each other’s shelters. We have gotten together a few times, and Kelly is also a huge supporter of Kids 4 Paws.
Alissa and I work together via cyberspace on a regular basis. I love her creativity and the fact that she isn’t afraid to try new things! She is such a gifted photographer and even more importantly, an amazing human being!
Eve is just beginning photography, and it is so much fun to watch her grow as a photographer. Like Alissa, she is an amazing person and has so much love and compassion for animals. It is an honor for me to work with them.
Can you talk about Paws for Charity and the Picatso project?
Paws for Charity is such an easy way to give back! I’m happy to submit photos for Sara Harley’s project. The books she creates make great gifts for family and friends, and it raises money for homeless animals. It’s a win-win situation!
The Picatso project was a complete accident. Katy, who is the office manager at Waterbury Veterinary Hospital, told me about the iPad app that allows cats to “paint” by chasing a mouse around the screen. When they touch the iPad screen, it creates a paint splatter or paw print. Initially, all of my cats thought they needed their own iPad, and I had to hide it any time we weren’t painting. Currently, my cat Simon is the main Picatso artist and Max will join in when the mood hits him. Mia has very little interest in being an artist. The original Picatso print was a gift to Dr. Emily when she moved to her new building and hangs in the cat exam room at Waterbury Veterinary Hospital.