Living What They Preach

Only a punk would hurt a cat or dog,” is not the only message SYSS so adamantly spreads. “Adopt, don’t shop,” is another that has a special place in the hearts of each member of the team. Approximately 7.6 million cats and dogs enter animal shelters each year, and millions are killed annually. The SYSS team is dedicated to promoting responsible pet ownership by encouraging everyone interested in adding a pet to the family to adopt from local shelters.


Mason - Mary

A constant theme among critics of shelter animals is that they are inherently “troubled,” and will forever be victims of their unfortunate circumstances. I ask these critics to meet Lord Mason Fitzroy Magoo. Mason, Caroline’s dearly beloved, oh-so-spoiled cat was rescued from the mean streets of Park Heights, Baltimore in 2012. Mason suffered from a painful condition called eyelid agenesis, which caused him to be born with nearly no eyelids. Caroline initially fostered poor Mason and got him the medical attention he so desperately needed. Mason soon won over Caroline’s heart and found his new fur-ever home.

Although both Caroline and Mason were lucky enough to find one another, she knows many animals are not as fortunate. “There is no greater joy than relieving the suffering of a homeless animal. It distresses me that so many educated people insist on buying their animals from breeders, or worse, from pet stores,” she said. “Homeless animals do not need our pity; they need to be adopted. We created this problem and we have an obligation to fix it.”



Like many of the SYSS gals, photographer Leo Howard Lubow has always been a cat lover. But, he was so inspired by the canine warmth generated at SYSS shoots, he decided to get his first dog, specifically asking BARCS if they had a Chihuahua — a nice one — as in one who liked people. Shortly after that, Leo found his way to Archie, and now they’re inseparable. If you see Leo out and about, you’ll also see a messenger bag by his side. You can guess who’s inside.


Although Archie’s later life is one of fairy tales, he wasn’t born into the life of tummy rubs and kisses. As a matter of fact, not much is known about what Archie suffered through his first few months. He was found in the winter of 2012, wandering around a Royal Farms as a six-month-old puppy. Luckily, he was picked up by BARCS, where he found a foster family full of dogs (many of which were not his size) looking for their fur-ever homes. Regardless of how they came to find one another, Leo wouldn’t have it any other way.

“He never ceases to amaze me,” he said. “The most chilled out and loving dog I’ve ever seen. He was so calm on a recent flight, three people asked me if he was on medication, and two wanted to take him home. And no matter what comes his way, he just seems to know what to do.” We do need to confess, though, that while he’s been given the title of ‘assistant photographer,’ he’s too small to help with setup.



The most recent addition to Sande’s fur-ever family came in the form of a so-called feral cat named The Colonel. She first came across The Colonel in January of 2014 while volunteering at Recycled Love Rescue. He had been living on the streets for over a year, and although she fell in love with the no tail, crooked-eared kitty, she refused to adopt, as The Colonel was FIV+ and she feared for the health of her cat, Little Man, at home.

Eventually, The Colonel moved to a foster home. While Sande was upset that their visits were short-lived, she slept well knowing he was now in a good home. After some time, the foster family could no longer care for The Colonel as their own dog was terrified of cats and it was beginning to take its toll. The rescue was considering putting the kitty in boarding, but Sande wouldn’t hear of it.

“It broke my heart thinking of that sweet kitty ever being in a cage again so I said we’d ‘foster’ him. I later found out his foster parents would have NEVER agreed to boarding him so I don’t know if someone was telling me a porky, but it couldn’t have worked out better in the end,” she said.

Taking no chances with Little Man’s health, Sande brought The Colonel (soon-to-be-renamed Bugsy) into her home. He lived in her office for three weeks, separate from Little Man. Today, the two cats are typical brothers, Bugsy, the quintessential, annoying little brother and Little Man, the tough and rugged man-of-the-house, have come to grudgingly love, or at least tolerate, each other.


“I still can’t believe we almost lost out on Bugsy because of our ignorance around FIV,” Sande said. “By providing him with good medical care and keeping him out of danger’s way, Bugsy can live a long and healthy life. And believe me, we’re counting on it.”



Lori has a soft-spot for slobbery puppies. Just as any good dog owner will tell you, it started out with that one dog that changed everything. For Lori, that was Barkley- her “special needs” cocker spaniel. Lori found Barkley, matted and dirty with bloodshot eyes, wandering the streets one night. After approaching Barkley, a lovable black dog, he quickly rolled over on his back as if to say, “Go ahead, you know you want to rub my belly.” Lori then took Barkley to the vet, only to find he had a number of chronic issues- bad ears, bad skin and trouble producing tears. Without skipping a beat, Lori decided she would give Barkley the fur-ever home he so truly deserved.

“I had Barkley for six years. Six years of getting up 45 minutes early to administer his daily medicines. Six years of spending a mortgage-sized amount of money on his care. I didn’t care,” Lori said. “I also received six years of unconditional love and snuggles. Barkley was awesome.”

Unfortunately, Barkley passed away of cancer at the age of 16. His passing was a low-point for Lori. Unable to eat or get-out-of-bed, her wife and mother-in-law knew they had to do something to ease the pain.

Enter-Emmett, Lori’s new, “special needs” dog.

Her wife and mother-in-law explained to Lori that they purchased Emmett from hellish conditions in an overcrowded barn, which they would soon realize was a puppy mill.

“You need to understand, that he was purchased in 2003. There were no Facebook pages describing the horrors of Amish farms. Michael Vick was a young, relatively new quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons and pet stores with puppies in the window were on every corner,” Lori said. “Malinda and I call Emmett our ‘gateway dog’. He was the dog that taught us first hand of the horrors of puppy mills.”

Lori is happy to say that Emmett opened her eyes to a world she never knew before. The couple made the conscious decision after bringing Emmett into their home that they would never buy another dog again, only rescue them. The ladies have stuck by that promise and today their family includes Emmett, one kitty and four doggy brothers.

Emmett and brothers

Written by Cayla Baker, Special Correspondent to SYSS