Mark Luinenberg Photographs Home for Life

The photographs of Mark Luinenberg, taken at Home for Life Sanctuary this year are featured in this slideshow  which was debuted at our Fall Gala.,the Fancy Feast, September 23, 2012.

Mark is a celebrated  photographer from Minneapolis who has traveled  the world taking photos for clients like National Geographic and Purina. Mark has taken photos as a volunteer for Home for Life almost since our very beginning, visiting the sanctuary regularly, accompanying our animals and volunteers on community outreach visits and attending our events. His photos over the past 12 years create a history in pictures of Home for Life Animal Sanctuary. His website features many images of Home for Life's cats and dogs:

When Mark comes out to the sanctuary, we draw up a list of animals whose photos we would like but deciding on the actual production of the images is left to his discretion. Why work with a gifted and creative person if you are going to dictate to them? I have had no  input into the creation of these photos besides suggesting animals for the subject matter. These photos really express Home for Life and our mission as seen through his eyes.          

We have featured other photographers on this blog, but I am embarrassed to say that this tribute to Mark's photos is long overdue. Home for Life is a new idea in animal sheltering, an animal sanctuary for special needs animals. We could pontificate and proselytize until we were blue in the face about why care for life sanctuaries are needed, and how our mission makes a difference. But with a single photo, Mark illustrates  why Home for Life has and continues to  make a difference in the lives of the animals we help.As a person he is understated and unassuming but sees everything and has an amazing gift for capturing the iconic moment.

In Home for Life's history we have had to struggle against the thought that our animals are pathetic and their stories heartbreaking. That they would be better off dead. If no one would even see our animals , how could Home for Life help them or justify their need for help?   Good and kind people want to turn away from any photos of what one called  our "damaged animals".  Mark's photos have shown them to be anything but pitiful: on the contrary,beautiful ,soulful,  full of life, joyful and worthy of support and attention.  Because of his beautiful portraits of our animals, Mark has made it possible for us to help these animals who so need and deserve our assistance.

Mark's photos also have revealed that despite the challenges our animals have faced- old age,disabilites, neglect, abuse- they still have much to live for and much to give.Because of his  photos, which have been the cornerstones of our newsletters and website, our animals are  seen.  Before, animals like those at  Home for Life were thought to have little to offer  and were shunned or hidden away.By making it possible for our animals to be visible and in such a beautiful way, Mark has given our animals an invaluable gift. No one can ever again dismiss them as having nothing to live for, nothing to give just because they could not find  a conventional adoptive home.

Below are some of our favorite from Mark's photos of Home for Life's animals from the past few years. Some of these images have become legendary, iconic photos for all time.

Celeste is a feline leukemia cat who has lived at Home for Life for over five years. This photo was taken of her this summer in our outdoor run for Home for Life's feline leukemia cats. Celeste has no eyes.She is also a therapy animal and regularly visits Minneapolis Tubman's shelter for children who are impacted  by domestic abuse.   

Flurry and Winter, two"lethal white" Australian Shepard brothers. They were found
on the side of a country road in Illinois, abandoned. They came to Home for Life at age 6 months. We lost Winter( following his brother Flurry in this photo) at just a year old,but Flurry,though blind, is still going strong.Because of Winter's untimely death, I treasure this photo of the two dogs running through our meadow with the clover and wildflowers in the background.This photo was featured on our 2010 newsletter cover.    

This photo is of Iso, the first K9 Home for Life rescued, on a community outreach visit to an elementary school. It's not commonly known that K9s are usually euthanized  when retired if they cannot live with their handlers. Usually they cannot as the police officer will need to get a younger K9 who will live with him.  These old K9 are used to working and need a job to do.They become bored and frustrated if they can't continue to have a way to remain active.  Home for Life would like to care for more of these dogs. Our community outreach programs offer them a way to be of service, and they have a safe and loving haven at Home for Life where they will not be misused or exploited.  
A touching photo taken in the Summer of 2011 of one of our senior dogs,a brown lab named Molly in one of our meadows. Her owner gave her up when she lost her home and could not take Molly with her. I had actually asked that our staff have Mark take another Home for Life Molly's photo: a senior toy poodle we had just taken in. Our wires got crossed and big Molly the lab was photographed instead. At first I was peeved, until we got the proofs from Mark including this extraordinary picture, which we ended up using for our home page late last summer:  .  

Joyful Ben: Ben is a small Shepard Mix surrendered to Home for Life as a puppy form the Animal Welfare League of Chicago. If I ever need motivation to keep going, working on behalf of Home for Life, this photo does it. As a small puppy, Ben was nearly beaten to death by a gang of boys. Rescued by the  Chicago Police and brought to AWL, Ben was not expected to live. He had brain swelling, and was in a coma for several days.  Though he survived the horrific abuse, Ben is blind and has suffered brain damage. But on a sunny winter day, nothing can stop him from enjoying a romp in our exercise run.   

Home for Life's cover of our 2011 newsletter. What an extraordinary photo. Who else but Mark could have taken it?  Bert, our senior St. Bernard is with one of  our former staff Jamie ( who now works as a zoo keeper), swimming in the Apple River on a warm summer say. This photo is like an impressionistic painting.  

Brown Megan was a retired seeing eye dog who was retired to Home for Life when her former owner, Annalisa, pictured here, could no longer care for her. Megan had developed arthritis and other medical issues and could not fulfill her duties as a seeing eye dog. Annalisa needed another dog to help her but could not keep two dogs in her small apartment. However, the two-Megan and Annalisa had a bond of over 10 years, that time and space could never sever as Mark's photo reveals.. Home for Life gave a safe retirement home to Megan and Annalisa was able to visit her often, with her new seeing eye dog Sundance.    Megan had a loving and safe haven and full life at Home for Life as a "greeter" dog in our Feline Leukemia building and enjoyed the frequent visits Annalisa made to the sanctuary, where they spent time walking in our meadows, guided by Sundance.  

Cedric was an older cat who came to Home for Life from a Wisconsin shelter. A farmer had found him after someone had thrown acid or lye in his face burning his muzzle,  the left side of his face. and his ears. He was also starving and in poor condition.This photo was taken within days of Cedric coming to the sanctuary. Despite the cruel abuse he suffered and his painful injuries,Cedric was a forgiving soul,always appreciative of kindness and attention. He was a special favorite at our Mall of America events. He died of cancer in 2006 but enjoyed several years of good health and happiness at Home for life,beloved by our staff and many supporters.   The tribute I wrote to Cedric and more photos of him are found at this link: 

Home for Life's brush with fame and Mark was there to capture it!: Here is our doberman Simon posing with the famed 'Dog Whisperer" Cesar Millan. These photos were taken right before Cesar did a book signing and appearance at the local Petco store.There had to be over 1000 people lined up outside the store waiting to meet him, so Mark had to be quick about taking the photos. He got this great one for all time of both Cesar and gentle Simon smiling. I treasure this picture, not so much because of Cesar, but because Simon was young and healthy then. Simon has developed Wobbler's Disease now and struggles to walk but has a mighty heart and perseveres. He was one of our first therapy dogs serving the the injured soldiers of the VA Poly Trauma Unit. More about Simon: and his work at the VA Poly Trauma Unit including an article that appeared in the St. Paul Pioneer Press:

Great photo taken in 2009.  More by accident than design we found ourselves the caretakers of five Cocker Spaniels, all elderly, who had all lost their homes due to various circumstances affecting their  owners: death,  illness,job loss  and home foreclosure. In the case of two of the dogs ( Goldie, 2nd from left and Joe Cocker, 2nd from right), the owners had abandoned them  to near certain death when we were alerted and were able to intervene in time. These dogs all got to enjoy their "golden years' - loving care, companionship with other dogs,great food, treats and romps in our meadows. Sadly of the five pictured, only the black cocker, Elmo is  still alive. He came to Home for Life, when his elderly owners died and Elmo's longtime veterinarian asked us to help him.    

Giovanni was an elderly Italian Greyhound  and is pictured here with one of our former staff members Genevieve,who is now a veterinarian. Giovanni's owner died and left him and several other animals of the household to the mercy of her family.The surviving family members wanted nothing to do with him, and through rescue contacts, Home for Life was alerted and able to offer him a loving retirement home for his senior years. Giovanni developed a cancer of the jaw at the very end of his life but up to that point was happy and made friends with another Home for Life Italian Greyhound named Vinnie who still lives at the sanctuary. I found it fascinating that these two dogs of the same breed became best friends and had that affinity for each others: we have found that dogs of the same breed do seem to gravitate to each other. 
This photo always charmed me because I think the composition though simple is so stunning.. Several of our supporters remembered this photo and commented on how exquisite it is.    

Home for Life believes at risk animals can help at risk people. Our Peace Creatures initiative consists of an array of innovative model programs where our volunteers and animals from the sanctuary provide pet therapy services to at risk people of all ages in our community. We focus on people who don't commonly receive the service of pet therapy-and who are the human being equivalent of our animals: shunned and socially  marginalized. Are there any individuals who are more  isolated in our society than the dying? We are proud to provide the service of pet therapy to hospice patients, those people who have received a terminal diagnosis and are in the last 6 months of their life. In this photo, Mark captures the heartfelt connection between  Home for Life volunteer Sara  and the patient she visited each week while he was in hospice care, and the bond that unites them-  Home for Life therapy dogs Minnie, a schnauzer and Sammy a cockapoo.      

Mark accompanied our volunteers on a  community outreach visit we make several times a month to the children's floor at the University of Minnesota Hospital in Minneapolis. In this  photo, Mark said one of the nurses was going to close the blind because the sun was so bright but he asked her to leave it open. The result: the beautiful light illuminating the face of Home for Life volunteer Rachel as she introduces Patches, an English setter mix who had lost a leg to cancer to a young patient undergoing chemotherapy.     

Newman was a long hair doberman. He had lived at a no kill shelter for over three years before he found his way to Home for Life.( More about Newman: He was such a great dog.,and even though he has been gone many years, I still treasure this photo of him. it's really true that if my house ever burned down the one thing I would grab, after making sure Rick and my animals were safe, would be my photo albums of all our Home for Life dogs and cats. After all these years, photos like this one still brings tears to my eyes and a smile to remember the special animals that have been part of Home for Life.       

Here is a more recent photo,taken in January of this year, 2012.The photo is of a dog named Bear whom we lost just a few months later. Bear, along with the other three dogs  in his home, were given up by their owner to Home for Life in the fall of 2011.The owner had to flee a dire domestic abuse situation and couldn't take her four big dogs with her. Bear came to Home for Life limping on his back right leg, but the owner hadn't been able to afford veterinary treatment for him. We had the leg x-rayed and evaluated by our veterinarians : Bear was diagnosed with osteosarcoma-  bone cancer. The decision was made to amputate the leg to give Bear the best chance to live pain free and have as much time as possible. He had limped on that painful leg for so long that when it was finally removed, it seemed like he was relieved, and he was able to walk and run like he had always had only three legs. Read more about Bear's story here:

Even with amputation of the affected limb with the tumor, the prognosis for dogs with osteosaroma  is six months or less.. Where do they go when they leave us? Bear had a couple good months before succumbing to the disease.  In this photo, full of silver, winter light, Mark glimpses Bear at the threshold-we bought him some borrowed  time with surgery and treatment, and he enjoyed those last few months he had at the sanctuary with us and his dog brother and sisters. Yet, in this photo, he  seems like a shimmering spirit already,  looking beyond his life here, to whatever might be ahead of him.