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How popular Cleveland photographer Greg Murray shows off shelter pets' best sides

Greg Murray says he believes every animal deserves to be loved -- and he is using his camera to prove it.

CLEVELAND, Ohio — October is National Adopt A Shelter Dog month -- a cause we wholeheartedly support on team Ready Pet GO!

Throughout Northeast Ohio, there are so many heroes in the rescue community who work tirelessly to help pets get adopted. We decided to shine a spotlight on one of them, who donates his own time to ensure all animals get the "best shot" at a loving home.

When you visit a kennel, you typically see dozens of pets, sometimes in cages or play yards. It can be noisy for you, and certainly stressful for them. 

Photographer Greg Murray sees adoptable pets differently; one-on-one in his Cleveland studio, where it's quieter. If the animal is on the floor, that's where you will find Murray, too. 

"I mean, I feel so lucky I get to work with animals. I get to hold them, play with them here."

By now, Murray's story is well-known in Northeast Ohio. Nine years ago, he traded in a human resources career -- taking a leap of faith to follow his heart and combine a passion for art, and a love for animals. 

"It's like the greatest thing ever. I could not be doing anything else. This is my life," Murray said when we visited him recently.

Make no mistake, it took time. For the first few years, Murray built his pet and animal photography business slowly. Then, a little book of his work called "Peanut Butter Dogs" took off. 

Credit: Greg Murray Photography
Murray has published 3 books and is currently working on his 4th.

"And it went viral. You know, like People, Today, like a million different websites featured them," Murray said. 

Since then his business has expanded. And so too, the variety of animals he is hired to photograph. Beyond dogs and cats, there are pigs, reptiles, bird, cows and more.

"Gosh you name it. I've probably photographed it."

But the animals closest to his heart are the underdogs: The rescues vying for attention at local shelters. It's deeply personal for him. Murray says growing up, his family adopted numerous rescues. He and his wife currently have two adopted dogs. 

Credit: Greg Murray Photography
How does he get such great shots? Murray says, for him, it's always something in the animal's eyes.

"I got my start photographing animals as a volunteer with the Cleveland APL and spending time with those animals in the shelter, getting them out of their kennels and whatnot. They deserve a home. They weren't put in that position. They deserve to be loved. "

Many of his subjects are pit bulls. He joined the fight against Lakewood's pit bull ban, which ended in 2018. The fight inspired his second book, "Pit Bull Heroes."

"With so much of the shelter population being pit bull type dogs, I think it's important for people to know that all dogs are individuals and deserve to be treated as such. The way a dog looks will not determine their behavior. Judging dogs based on looks does not equate to safety. Safety comes from holding all dogs and humans accountable for properly managing their dog, regardless of the way it looks."

Credit: Greg Murray Photography
Murray recently photographed Clover, a 20-something pound Flemish Giant rabbit, found in the Metroparks. Clover is listed with Euclid Pet Pals.

Through his lens, Murray is able find that special quality in each and every animal.

Like Baloo, a playful, treat-motivated pup, still searching for the right human.

"When you look into an animal's eyes, especially these dogs eyes, you can really connect with them. And anything I can do to help get a dog noticed, or especially a dog that may be struggling to get adopted, or any other animal, rabbit, you know, it's a good feeling," he said. 

Credit: Greg Murray
Murray's Rescued 2023 Calendar features dogs who have been rescued, or in Baloo's case, still in need of a home. It's available now with a portion of proceeds going to Neighborhood Pets Outreach and Resource Center.

Even a Flemish Giant Rabbit -- dumped in the Metroparks. At 20 pounds, "Clover" is a lot of bunny to love, and her portrait is the perfect bait for potential adopters. 

Murray is only happy to do his part, believing all it takes is just the right shot to help these animals find their forever homes. 

"To hear that feedback from someone that said, 'I saw your photo. I went to see the dog and adopted it.' It's a huge smile on my face," he said. 

For his part, Murray appreciates the attention these animals receive, through his one-of-kind photography.

"My time spent volunteering to take these photos pales in comparison to the time spent by staff and volunteers at the shelters and rescue organizations. They are true heroes who make a difference on a daily basis by taking care of these animals and doing everything they possibly can to get them into forever homes. I wouldn't be able to do what I do without them. The effort and time some of these people put into animal rescue is something to be celebrated. Northeast Ohio is so lucky to have such a dedicated animal rescue community."

Murray has published three books. A 4th is in the works. 

He also creates a yearly calendar of rescue dogs and gives a portion of proceeds to a chosen charity. For his Rescued 2023 calendar, which is available now, Murray has selected Neighborhood Pets and Outreach and Resource Center, which supports people with financial needs by helping them keep their pets in their homes. 

Cat lovers, there will also be a calendar for you. Murray is finishing up a version for feline fanatics, and will be posting a link soon. 

VISIT Greg Murray Photography.

Check out 2023 Rescued Calendar HERE.

Check out more adoption information about Baloo HERE.

Check out adoption information about Clover HERE.

Learn more about Neighborhood Pets and Outreach Resource Center HERE.


Editor's note: Video in the player above was originally published in a previous pets story on Sept. 28, 2022.

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