A dog tells his story through photography

Americans are in love with dogs. The current runaway success of John Grogan’s Marley and Me demonstrates how much Americans love anything “dog-related.”

Unfortunately, many abandoned dogs and other pets languish in animal shelters, waiting for an owner who may not ever come for them. In fact, there are literally millions of animals who need homes. People sometimes forget about these animals and how much they can add to our lives.

Reiji Kanemoto’s life changed forever when he brought home Rufus, an elderly golden retriever that was abandoned by its owners. A professional photographer for more than 20 years, Kanemoto quickly realized that Rufus could provide him with a unique point of view from a dog’s perspective. Rufus became a “Dog Photographer” by allowing Kanemoto to harness a real camera to his body.

“The idea was a simple one,” said Kanemoto. “Put a camera around my dog’s neck and start shooting pictures from his point of view. It was a lot of fun and really opened my eyes as a photographer. It also turned into a journey of companionship and unforgettable memories that I will always carry with me.”

The result is a unique book of photographs, taken from Rufus’ point of view, as he and Kanemoto snapped pictures of anything of interest all over Los Angeles. The book, My Name is Rufus, I Am a Photographer: A Dog’s True Story (StudioTanimoto, 2006), is unlike anything else on the market today, mostly because the dog himself took the photographs.

The book tells Rufus’ story in pictures, and is at turns funny, fascinating, touching and hopelessly charming. Providing a rare view of the world from a dog’s perspective, the book chronicles trips to dog shows, dog parks, dog beaches and even a pet café. You also get to see how other dogs reacted to Rufus’ camera, and you even get a sense of his predilection for the ladies.

“Rufus was a ladies’ dog,” said Kanemoto. “Whenever we went for walks, he would always greet the girls passing by, and they would make a fuss over him. I think he knew he was a good-looking dog.”

The book serves as Kanemoto’s tribute to his beloved dog and also as a photo journal of the unbreakable bond between the photographer and his dog. While the photos are taken in the spirit of fun, the story also has a serious underlying theme between the lines.

His experience with Rufus profoundly affected Kanemoto’s life and his outlook on the many abandoned dogs living in shelters all over the country.

“The one thing he taught me was kindness,” said Kanemoto. “He made me realize there are so many abandoned pets like him, living in kennels waiting for their guardians to come back.”

As a result of his inseparable relationship with Rufus, Kanemoto has dedicated himself to try to help stray and abandoned pets.

“Some of these pets find new people to care for them, but most don’t,” said Kanemoto. “I hope to continue adopting these animals, and try to find others who can as well.”

Because of his love and appreciation for Rufus, Kanemoto will be donating a portion of the book sales to the Golden Retriever Foundation, which fosters the rescue, rehabilitation and placement of displaced golden retrievers.

After five wonderful years with Kanemoto, Rufus unfortunately passed away due to natural causes. Kanemoto has adopted Murphy, a stray dog that is part black Labrador and part Great Dane. It is his hope that Murphy will someday be able to carry on Rufus’ work.

From the April 19-25, 2006, issue

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