Volunteer photographer with an eye for saving pets
If you read the story about a dog named Duchess, you’re already familiar with Christie Lynn. Christie, a volunteer at the Best Friends Pet Adoption Center in Atlanta. Christie is the talented photographer who captured a very happy Duchess enjoying tea time at a Mother’s Day photo shoot that featured adoptable dog moms from the center.
While Christie’s photos have helped cats and dogs at the center find homes, lending her artistic eye isn’t the only way she’s helping save the lives of Atlanta’s homeless pets. She also fosters cats and kittens, and she has a soft spot for shy kitties.
“Christie is an amazing foster and volunteer,” says Carol Atwood, coordinator at the center. "Recently she’s been instrumental in our transport program by helping to walk and feed dogs preparing for transport to our network partners in the northeast. She's recruited and trained friends and family to help as well.”
Here’s more about why Christie volunteers, along with some surprising information about her day job.
Why did you decide to volunteer and what motivates you to continue helping the animals?
I decided to become a volunteer after my husband and I found a stray dog near our home. He was a brindle-colored mix with a collar but no tag or microchip, so we named him Fudge. We were unable to find his owners so we reluctantly turned him into animal control, just in case his owners were looking for him there. Seeing all of the homeless animals there was very sad for us.
Unfortunately, Fudge didn’t make it out of the shelter and I realized this is a sad reality for many homeless animals in our area. Shortly after, I became a regular Best Friends volunteer. I am motivated to continue volunteering when I see just how many animals are saved by Best Friends’ programs.
What inspires you most in your volunteer work?
I’m inspired most by seeing the dedication of the other volunteers. Some folks are using their time in retirement to give back to the community, which I really admire. Many of us have stressful day jobs, but have our energy refilled by giving our free time to a good cause. Getting to know the community of volunteers at the center has been really fulfilling.
Since becoming a Best Friends volunteer, what have you learned and do you see things differently now?
Even though my own dog is a Rottweiler mix and I should know better than to have breed bias, I was afraid of certain breeds before becoming a volunteer. Now I’ve truly experienced that each dog has a personality that is not dependent on its breed. I’ve met many dogs from unfortunate circumstances who still have the sweetest temperaments.
What does volunteering mean to you?
While I was growing up and in school, volunteerism was just a part of life. I probably first volunteered as a Girl Scout in elementary school. Then in high school and beyond, community service was something we were always told would look good on applications and resumes. I remember helping kids with their homework in an after school program and visiting a hospital nursery to comfort newborns born to drug-addicted mothers.
Now as an adult I see volunteering as a way to feel better about a lot of things that disappoint me on the news or in our world. I can’t fix everything and I can’t save all of the animals myself. But I can help animals one at a time by fostering and making their stays at the center as comfortable as possible while they wait to find home.
Tell us about your favorite volunteer moment.
I have two. The first was taking the Mother’s Day tea party pictures of two of our adoptable dogs last May. My husband, Ryan, helped me bring out their personalities and get some really fun shots. It really made my heart happy when the photos were seen by a wider audience to bring attention to Best Friends.
My other favorite moment was when I started fostering a cat named Archie, who came from a hoarding situation. He was very withdrawn at the center and had spent a few weeks hiding behind furniture. Staff asked me to give him a break from shelter life to see if he could remember how great it is to be a kitty.
I brought him home and gave him some time to explore on his own. Then I went into the room to start the detailed plan that the Best Friends team had given me. Well, Archie flew right through the steps and within about 15 minutes was purring and letting me pet his cheek. A few minutes later, he was out of his hiding place, rubbing all over me and enjoying my affection. He stayed with us for a few weeks to have a nice break, and then he returned to the center and adopted a few weeks later. Seeing Archie relax so easily in a home environment was a really joyful moment.
Tell us something we don’t know about you.
I think a lot of people who have seen me in unglamorous moments around the center might be surprised to learn that I’m an Emory University-trained, licensed physician — board-certified in internal medicine.
What are you doing when you’re not volunteering with animals?
I root for the Falcons (except when they’re playing the New York Giants) and Atlanta United. My husband and I travel as much as possible. When I’m spending time with my foster cats and kittens, I am learning Italian via apps and workbooks. I also like to cook, practice photography, play golf (badly) and crochet.
Besides volunteering for Best Friends, how else do "give back" to your community?
I volunteer with Trees Atlanta by planting trees and helping to maintain Atlanta’s tree canopy. I also try to donate blood regularly.
Tell us about your pets.
I have a four-year-old Rottweiler-lab mix named Grover and a two-year-old orange tabby named Ferris. They are terrific buddies and bring us a lot of joy.
Do you have a super power and, if so, what is it?
Besides my ability to nap almost anywhere (I might be part cat), I have a pretty comprehensive knowledge of celebrity gossip. Someday I’ll find a way to use those for good.
What would you tell others who are thinking of volunteering?
Come check us out. It’s not all chores like cleaning, laundry and dishes. There are so many fun ways to get involved and share your talents. A few of the ways I’ve volunteered at Best Friends are photographing the animals for social media, walking dogs with a Saturday morning run-walk club, fostering kittens and shy cats and giving baths to puppies.
We even had a craft day to make enrichment items for the animals. If you’re even a little interested in volunteering, please reach out and see what opportunities match your interests. Just sitting and reading to a shy animal can make a difference. Plus we have puppies and kittens to snuggle!
Photos courtesy of Christie Lynn