The BARKery puts faces to local adoptable dogsBy Chandler Wright | 04/20/2014 11:00pm
When she’s not in the classroom teaching classes in the Capstone College of Nursing, Monika Wedgeworth spends a much of her time managing The BARKery on 35th, a Facebook site that advertises shelter dogs to Facebook users and rescue groups.
“The BARKery is run 100 percent by volunteers, many of whom are UA students. The BARKery volunteers go to the animal shelter several days a week,” Wedgeworth said. “They take the adoptable dogs out to the play yard to take pictures and collect information about the dogs. The pictures and bios are then uploaded and shared.”
Jeri Gulsby, a senior majoring in photography and digital media, currently takes photographs for The BARKery and said the page was started last year after the Metro Animal Shelter closed.
“When Metro shut down last summer, a group of volunteers got together and formed The BARKery on 35th Street, which was simply a small group that went to the shelter at least once a week and photographed all the new dogs that had come in and posted them on the Facebook page,” Gulsby said. “We took them out of their kennels and into the gated back yard where we let them run and play for a little while, getting them some fresh air and exercise after being cooped up in a kennel for days on end.”
Wedgeworth said the BARKery is critical to saving the lives of dogs in the Tuscaloosa community, because it reminds Tuscaloosa citizens about the regularity of euthanizing adoptable pets.
“The majority of people in Tuscaloosa don’t know or don’t want to know that adoptable dogs are euthanized regularly in our county, and until spay/neuter laws are enacted, that fact is unlikely to change,” Wedgeworth said. “Many people are animal lovers but are afraid to go to the shelter because of the emotional toll that it takes. The group of BARKery volunteers brings the shelter to the public via social media, and a picture that is shared and re-shared often finds it’s way to someone looking for just that particular dog.”
Gulsby echoed this sentiment, saying that she has rescued two dogs herself, but for a long time she didn’t want to acknowledge the overpopulation in shelters around the state.
“I stayed away from it for a while hoping it would go away – kind of one of those ‘out of sight, out of mind’ type things,” Gulsby said. “A lot of dogs euthanized every year are owner surrenders – people get rid of their dogs when they’re having a baby, they get rid of their dogs when they move, etc. One thing I’ve noticed is people don’t understand that dogs are not chick magnets or a fad, they’re a commitment.”
(See also "Sokol Park opens space for dogs")
Gulsby said that is the primary reason why she started volunteering as a photographer, coupled with knowledge of the importance of good photography in finding animals a “forever home.”
“In shelters, most of the time it’s through the bars of a cage or it’s taken on an iPhone. Let’s face it – if you see a blurry picture of a puppy online, you’re going to move on until you see a dog that has a better photo,” she said. “The difference in photographing a dog in a kennel and a dog outside running around freely is amazing.”
Tuscaloosa citizens can search for adoptable pets in the community at facebook.com/theBARKeryon35th.
(See also "Student keeps wolf dogs as pets")