Animal advocate and award-winning photographer Sheri Berliner is on the speed dial of many a Chicagoland pet-lover and rescue organization – and for good reason. With over 30 years of experience photographing pets and people, she has cultivated an enviable broad-based network with an uncanny ability to connect homeless creatures with those looking for the next furry love-of-their lives. She has also personally saved the lives of thousands of dogs, cats, guinea pigs, rats, hamsters, mice, birds and rabbits.
It all started one day in 1989, with a co-worker’s casual mention of two kittens her husband planned to drown that evening. Luckily, Mcintosh and Bugsy never met that horrible fate. Instead they spent the next 20 years in Sheri’s home, thanks to her timely intervention. Sheri says, “[a]nimals were being killed for ridiculous reasons, and I was going to try my best to help.” She knew she couldn’t keep all of the down-and-outs that would come her way. There were far too many. She felt, however, she could use her photography and marketing skills to get them noticed – and she could open her home temporarily, as space and means would permit, until she could find permanent homes.
Since that time, armed with love, determination and her trusty camera, Sheri has continued to rescue animals from heart-wrenching situations – roughly 60 animals every year. She has fostered and re-homed death-row candidates from open-admission shelters, animals sponsored by rescue organizations, and strays that had the good sense to wander into her path. She has also taken in animals whose owners passed away without any care plan for their furred loved ones. Most would not have made it without her intervention.
Says Sheri, “[p]eople shouldn’t just bring animals to a shelter. It is their responsibility to find the animal a new home, whether it is a family pet or a stray. Fostering an animal is a gift to the animal and the self. It also allows an opportunity to get to know the animals better, so that the animal can end up in the right home.”
Sheri launched Petraits Pet Photography, her award-winning pet photography business, in 1995. At her Andersonville-based studio, Sheri provides pet owners with professional photographs that capture the personalities of their pets – and that immortalize a cherished relationship far better than the omnipresent iphone. She describes her secret as: “Patience. It takes a lot of patience to capture their personality. It can be very stressful for some photographers. But, because I photograph over 500 pets a year, I’ve learned how to get animals to respond.” Sheri even makes house calls. Sheri’s typical photo package runs $300, and includes prints and enlargements, as well as a CD with the digital images.
Animal rescue is not a cheap affair. The vet bills can be eye-popping, and the other necessary care items can also cost a pretty penny. Over the decades, Sheri has helped finance her rescue efforts by offering affordable and compelling photographs of thousands of homeless animals from rescues, shelters and other unfortunate
situations. The cost of rescue photographs has remained the same: $50, which includes the invaluable exposure every rescue animal gains by being promoted in a photo-bio to those on Sheri’s 6,000-plus-strong e-mail list. She also spreads the word about needy pets by posting them to petfinder.com, adoptapet.com, rescueme.org, as well as Facebook, and Twitter.
In her decades of animal rescue, Sheri has seen a lot: “Animals deserve far more respect than people tend to give them. There is a big disconnect between those that are most loved, and those that are least loved.” She continues to devote her life and talents to bridging the gap.
To subscribe to Sheri’s daily Petrait e-mails of pets available for adoption, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. To peruse companion animals seeking homes, please visit www.petraits.petfinder.com and of course take a look at FCACC’s list of amazing cats and dogs for adoption in Chicago (many of which Sheri has featured)! And, to see more of Sheri’s work or book a photo shoot with your family and/or pets, check out www.petraits.com.
Author: Susan Russel