The bond between a pet and its owner is a special one — and one local photographer is exploring just how powerful the bond can be between the LGBTQ community and their rescue dogs.
Saturday marked the first day of Transgender Awareness Week, and the Don’t You Want Me project is kicking it off, looking at the powerful bond between trans and queer people and their rescue dogs, through compelling photos.
The photo project aims to share some of the unique journeys humans share with their fur babies and the impact it has had on their lives as they transition and grow together.
“The rescue dog has been through this difficult situation and once it has security it transforms,” said Jack Jackson, co-founder of the project.
“All those anxieties and fears, aggression have gone, and it’s the same with some of the people in the project.”
Jackson moved to Canada 10 years ago from a small island in the English Channel. Leaving his career in finance, Jackson, who experienced transphobia as a trans man, was unemployed before he found photography and began to photograph dogs, as well as the queer and trans community.
“I was not doing well, it was a very difficult time and I ended up completely by myself,” he said. Then, he rescued his dog Jet.
“The thing that got me going and moving was Jet,” Jackson said.
He then began capturing others rescue dogs and their owners.
“The project isn’t all mental health or vulnerability … it’s also stories of transformation,” Jackson said. “It’s all about giving inspiration and giving hope to some younger people.”
One of the pet-owner relationships captured in the project is Lucas Silveira and his pet Chihuahua, Marcy. Marcy entered his life five years ago, about a year after his divorce.
Silveira, a Canadian singer-songwriter with The Cliks, is also the first out trans man signed to a major record deal. He’s clear: Marcy rescued him.
At the time, an old friend of Silveira who could not keep her dog anymore called him to say she needs to give Marcy to him.
“I love Chihuahuas,” Silveira said. “I was going through a really really hard time … through a lot of depression, not only because of my divorce but also transition can be very difficult at times. It’s been an incredible journey since, to sort of be re-born and re-learn who I am.”
Silveira struggles with agoraphobia, a type of anxiety disorder in which you fear places or situations that might cause you to panic or make you feel trapped or helpless — which heightened for him during the pandemic. Without Marcy, who became certified as an emotional support dog two months ago, he said he wouldn’t have a reason to keep going.
“She’s been an incredible support to me, and life-saving to be honest,” Silveira said. “If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have a reason to get up in the morning, I wouldn’t have a reason to make sure I was taking care of myself so that I could keep her safe.”
The Don’t You Want Me project can be found online. A walk-through exhibit will also be at Pet Valu stores across Canada.