Categorized | Featured, Volunteering

Rover to the rescue

(Photo courtesy of Andrew Grant)

(Photo courtesy of Andrew Grant)

Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7 Editor

A couple of nosy dogs changed the course of Andrew Grant’s career and, five years later, the Hawaii Island Humane Society will reap the benefits.

Grant, an acclaimed commercial and advertising photographer, was shooting a spread for Chef Works in San Diego, when the owner’s dogs kept wandering through the set.

“I just decided ‘fine, we’ll use them in the shoot,'” Grant said. “They ended up using the photo with the dogs as a centerpiece for the campaign. It wasn’t long after that I read the statistics and that was pretty much it.”

A life-long lover of cats and dogs, Grant said he was stunned and saddened to learn more than 56 percent of dogs and puppies at shelters across the country are euthanized each year. That’s approximately one dog every 8 seconds, totally in the millions annually.
“When I first learned just how many dogs and cats entered shelters every year and the dramatic effect the recession and housing crisis was having on rescues, there was an immediate sense of urgency to bring attention to the crisis,” Grant said.

His first idea – a book featuring dogs at rescue shelters – proved too much of a logistical challenge, so he modified the vision and the Rover to the Rescue project was off and running.

Dog owners could offer a donation to their local animal rescue shelter in exchange for a sitting with Grant. Each dog is guaranteed a two-page spread, with an extra ‘one-and-done’ section highlighting some of Grant’s less agreeable subjects.

Grant’s first customer – a rather large Husky – was also Grant’s first lesson in photographing dogs. After slipping and sliding all around the slick white tabletop, the Husky was more relaxed on the floor and Grant soon found himself down at doggie level.

The first book included about 100 dogs and caught the eye of well-known animal advocate Ellen DeGeneres, who featured the book on her daytime TV show.

Since then, Grant has produced two more books and is working on his fourth and final edition, including the photo shoots he’s scheduling next week in Kona.

Grant, along with his girlfriend and business partner Amanda Hedlund, is traveling to 15-20 cities this year, shooting pooches and raising funds for local shelters.

During this visit to Kona, Grant is scheduling sessions next week. The $5,000 donation goes toward the HIHS capital campaign fund for the new Kona shelter.

“This is the only chance to get in this book and immortalize your dog in a book that lives on thousands of coffee tables for years,” he said. “Although if someone wants to make the donation now for the Hawaii Island shelter, I can shoot the photos in one of the other cities we are visiting. So it could be a great gift for mainland friends or family, too.”

In addition to Kona, Grant and Hedlund will travel to Las Vegas, Phoenix, Austin, Houston, Dallas, West Palm Beach, Savannah, Charleston, Atlanta, Arlington, New York City, Hamptons, Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, Greenwich, Chicago, Nashville, Seattle and San Francisco.

The previous three editions have raised more than $4 million for shelters across the country and provided Grant with a life-time of dog stories.

“With the bright lights, my huge noisy camera and the white vinyl backdrop, there are several things that can go wrong,” he said. “Sometimes they get a nervous or scared, and I can usually tell within the first minute.”

For example, Maverick, a golden lab from Sun Valley, Idaho, just couldn’t get used to the loud click of the camera. Grant urged the owners to take Maverick home and practice taking snapshots of him. The plan backfired, however, and Maverick now runs from the room every time his owner puts a hand up and says ‘click.’

“But I’ve taken photos of about 500 dogs and there have only been perhaps four that just wouldn’t cooperate,” Grant said, adding that he is continually learning tricks and methods to bring out the best in his furry subjects.

“We appreciate Andrew and Amanda coming to Kona to share their photography expertise. This is a great opportunity for Big Island dog lovers to show off their photogenic pets and benefit the Humane Society,” HIHS executive director Donna Whitaker said.

HIHS board member Scott Dodd said, “Not only is it great for the HIHS capital campaign for the new Kona shelter, but also for dog owners to get their pet’s portrait taken by a high-end photographer.
Plus get their dog in the book and get a Kailua-Kona mention in Andrew’s last book. That’s pretty cool.”

To reserve a photo session with Grant, call 329-8002 or email

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