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Finding Furever Homes

Shonda Judy, 60, is a photographer in Cynthiana with a passion for shelter animals. It's her second career after retiring from Harrison County Schools. She also volunteers at the animal shelter throughout the week, dropping off donations and photographing the dogs and cats. She posts the photos with stories of the pets' personalities to encourage more adoptions.

Shonda Judy, 60, did not grow up with many animals and never particularly had a passion for them. But 10 years ago, she visited the Cynthiana animal shelter for the first time and felt deep concern for conditions she describes as bleak.

"It's just so sad there," she says, adding that Kentucky ranks 50th in the country for its animal welfare laws and regulations. 

On that first day, Shonda, a local photographer, snapped a picture of a dog in the shelter with her cell phone and posted it to Facebook with a brief story she created about the dog’s personality. Three hours later, that dog was adopted.

“Dogs that I take pictures of and post don’t get adopted because they look at it and think ‘Oh I need a husky!” she says. "They adopt the animal because they see a post and a picture of a dog named Jimmy who has a red pickup truck and they think ‘Oh my grandpa’s name was Jimmy and he drove a red pickup truck too! That dog needs me and I need that dog!’ They can feel that connection with the animals and put a personality to the name."

Shonda started a photography business in Cynthiana after retiring from the local school system 12 years ago. Her first gig involved taking portraits of a close friend's granddaughter on a farm. 

While running her own business, Shonda volunteers her time photographing animals at the local shelter to increase adoption rates.

“My passion is photography. I’m a photographer. I just happen to use this gift to take  pictures of animals,” Shonda says.

She also started her own nonprofit, Hope Fur Homes, which focuses on rescuing and fostering animals, and collecting supplies to help the animals throughout their time in the shelter.

“It’s not rocket science," she says. "You either get more people to work, or even get volunteers, to at least make these animals’ lives a bit better while they’re stuck in the shelter. You can also always educate the public and encourage people to adopt, adopt, adopt."

Eventually, she would like to raise enough money to build a new wing of the shelter for the elderly animals. "I want our shelter to be ranked No. 1 in the state of Kentucky." 

Shonda watches TV at home with her cat, Puss. She didn't grow up with many pets it's a passion she fell into in adulthood. "I got Puss by surprise, honestly," she says. "She kept coming up to my porch, wanting food and, of course, I had to feed her, and she just ended up staying."
Shonda keeps "thank you" cards for those that foster or adopt animals from the shelter through her nonprofit, Hope Fur Homes. "Instead of you just handing over a dog in the shelter like 'Here you go!' I try to make it more personal and celebrate the fact that you're adopting a new animal," she says.
Shonda stores all of her photo props in her home upstairs. Some are for the shelter animal portrait sessions. They're also for her paid work. Shonda started her business after retiring. She worked in special education.
Shonda unloads dog treats and cat hammocks that she is donating to the shelter before going inside to volunteer. She says the endless work of finding homes for the pets can be draining. "Every once in a while, I just have to back up because we could get 10 to 12 cats adopted in one week and then come back in on Monday and find that someone's left cats in our drop off box," she says. "You just get tired of stupid people."
Shonda uses her "shelter bag" to store treats that she gives out to the animals while volunteering at the shelter. "I got it from Goodwill for like $8 and it's like my favorite thing that I own," she says.
Shonda photographs a pitbull in the shelter to post on Facebook. "You make up a story about the animal and you give them a face and name and that's how they get adopted."
Shonda visits with the dogs in the shelter and passes out treats.
Shonda practices tricks with her black labrador, Lucy. "I got Lucy on a whim from the shelter a couple years ago and she's been my sweet buddy ever since."
Shonda relaxes with a bubble bath at the end of a day she spent volunteering at the shelter. She says even though her volunteer work is taxing, she feels committed to continuing. She's afraid no one else would. To her, finding ways to introduce people to these animals is important. "I see how animals have changed other people's lives."