No One's Dog at Diverse Works: A Heartbreaking Collection

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As a Houstonian, it's difficult to ignore the plethora of homeless dogs roaming about the city. The actual number of strays, however, is staggering. Over a million homeless animals call the Houston streets home. In fact, in a 2010 Health of Houston Survey, it was stated that strays are considered the No. 1 neighborhood problem in the city. It is with this in mind, that Diverse Works, Barrio Dogs and Box 13 have collaborated on a new exhibition, No One's Dog.

The show, which opened this past Saturday at the Diverse Works gallery, is a "community based" project that aims to shine a light on the city's stray issue. The three organizations put out an open call for community members to upload high-resolution photos of homeless or hurt dogs. Additionally, Barrio Dogs staff passed out 30 disposable cameras to residents of the East End, including children. The results were more than 100 photos of the desperate situation. Diverse Works chose the photos that they felt best encapsulated the issue, printed them and these images are currently on display through August 9.

A word of warning: The exhibition is not for the faint of heart. Animal lover or not, there is no way that this collection won't grab your heartstrings and tug them the hell out of your chest. I found myself tearing up multiple times. Many of the photos are haunting, some even difficult to look at. Emaciated dogs, broken down, hiding in shadows, alone in fields are some of the moments captured by the various participants of the project. Despite the subject matter being tough, the photos themselves are stunning; an odd surprise given they were taken by amateurs - and some are even very young amateurs.

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But don't let the harrowing nature of the subject deter you, or your family, from seeing the show. There are plenty of images that are uplifting, many of which are just cute dogs smiling for the camera. A few of the pictures are of the Barrio Dogs volunteers assisting the animals, giving the collection a nice sense of hope.

Elizabeth Dunbar, the Executive Director of Diverse Works, says that they wanted a nice mix of photos so that visitors weren't so bombarded by downtrodden images.

The entire collection does give off the air of optimism. That's the whole point of the show; to bring much-needed awareness to this problem and it does so very effectively. I would be surprised if any attendees of the show left without wanting to help the cause. To view all of the submitted photos visit flickr.com/groups/houstondogs.

In addition to the photos on display, and a subsequent event at Box 13 ArtSpace on August 9, local artist Michael Bise created an original coloring book for the project. The book is a dedication to Rusty, a dog found by the Barrio Dogs in a cemetery and an example of just one of the successes the organization is proud of. The coloring book was on display during Saturday's opening and is free for those who visit. And it is absolutely adorable and heartfelt. (Rusty the dog was even at the opening, greeting guests like a proper host.)

The collection is small and won't take you much time to take in, but dog owner or not, the impact of the subject absolutely will hit you at your core. It's a worthy project and one deserving of our attention.

No One's Dog is on display at Diverse Works now through August 9. Gallery Hours: Wednesdays, noon - 8 pm / Thursdays - Saturdays, noon - 6 pm / or by appointment Admission is open to the public and FREE

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