When John Hwang walks along the line of kennels at his local animal shelter, a wave of hope rises up to meet him.
Inside each cage, a dog comes to life, excitedly pressing against the fence, all kisses and blurry-tailed optimism.
It’s a wave that rises in hope — Is this the day? — and crashes against reality when he passes.
Maybe next time.
Hwang visits shelters often, photographing dogs in hopes of finding them homes through social media.
But during a visit last week to the Baldwin Park shelter in Los Angeles, that old familiar wave of hope fell suddenly and conspicuously short at one kennel.
While all the other dogs rushed to greet Hwang, one little dog refused to budge.
“I just kind of peeked in and saw this little raggedy dog,” he says. “She was just in the corner far from the fence, up against the wall. I figured she was one of those little dogs who was really scared and probably wouldn’t interact with me.”
After taking a few pictures, Hwang was about to walk away when the dog began shambling slowly toward him.
“She came right up to the fence and totally pressed her whole body up against it,” Hwang recalls. “She just wanted me to pet her. She was so sweet.”
Hwang could see the dog’s fur was desperately matted. Her eyes were so infected, she had trouble opening them.
Indeed, the 10-year-old dog didn’t seem so much like a wave, as a weak and wobbly ripple.
“It actually made her even more endearing,” Hwang says. “I thought this poor little dog must have had a rough life. I could have spent all day with her. That’s all she wanted.”
It turned out, this dog’s tiny gesture would resonate. Hwang’s pictures were seen by thousands on social media.
“So many people were in love with this dog and doing everything they could to try to get her out,” he says.
Among those smitten by the dog’s plight was an organization called Leashes of Love Rescue, which specializes in saving dogs from high-kill shelters.
Cathi Perez, a volunteer for the group, picked up the dog, named Annabelle, as soon as the shelter cleared her for adoption.
And at last, Annabelle rose up like a mighty wave, all kisses and whirring tail, as she was led to Perez.
Yes, today is the day.
“She was so excited to be out of her kennel. Just to be out and walking around,” Perez says. “She was just so happy the second she got out. She was immediately not the same dog.”
After a veterinary checkup — Annabelle has an eye infection among a litany of health issues that will need to be treated — the dog went home with her foster mother.
In a few days, she will be picked up by a woman who has already offered to give her a permanent home.
And from there this once-tiny ripple will finally reach her shore.