Art with a mission

When studio arts major Caitlyn Osmer ’12 photographs her subjects, she starts with simple requests: “Please stay still long enough so I can get this picture” and “Can I just see your face?”

Not only does she capture each face, but she also reveals the soul of every dog, cat, rat, ferret, and guinea pig in front of her lens. And because the rescued-animal photos are posted on pet adoption web sites, the quality of Caitlyn’s art may mean the difference between life in a shelter and a forever home. “A good picture is better than a bad picture in finding a home for an animal,” says Caitlyn, a native of Granger, Indiana. “These pictures are important.”

The photos are part of Caitlyn’s volunteer work for Heartland Small Animal Rescue of Mishawaka, Indiana, a nonprofit organization that finds homes for rescued animals. Heartland posts Caitlyn’s photos on Petfinder, an international pet adoption site. Additionally Caitlyn’s photos were a project for an independent study in photography.

Caitlyn not only photographs homeless animals, she has bathed them, transported them, and raised funds for their welfare. She has been featured on the local news for creating a Facebook page called Lost/Found Dogs of St. Joseph County, Indiana, that reunites lost pets and their owners.

Her passion for dogs started as a girl. “I found a lost dog and we had to give it to animal control that day,” she says. “But that one day with that dog, I loved. It stuck with me.”

So it’s no surprise that Caitlyn adopted a dog of her own, a DNA-tested rottweiler/basset hound/ Norwegian elkhound/chow chow mix named Nutmeg. Four months old when Caitlyn adopted her in April 2010, Nutmeg was transported from a shelter where she would have been euthanized. “Nutmeg is a healthy, beautiful dog,” Caitlyn says. So beautiful, in fact, that Modern Dog magazine recently featured a photo of Caitlyn and Nutmeg submitted by Caitlyn’s boyfriend.

Caitlyn also fosters and rehabilitates dogs. Currently she’s fostering two dogs, helping them gain confidence and learn obedience. She knows the bittersweet feeling of fostering. “The day I give them up, I’ll cry because I have created a bond with them, and without that bond, rehabilitation is not effective,” she says.

After she graduates Caitlyn hopes to work as a graphic designer. No matter what she does, she’ll stay involved with homeless animals. “I’d love to set up a dog rehabilitation clinic someday,” she says. “I want to show these dogs that the world is OK, that it’s a safe place for them.”