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Photographer's Work Helps Save Dogs' Lives

COLLEYVILLE (CBS 11 NEWS) - Teresa Berg never dreamed her photography skills would save lives.

But that changed one day when she was online looking through pictures for a shelter dog to adopt.

"You see one after another of dogs with glowing red eyes," Berg said.  "Black dogs, you can't see any details; fuzzy, bad pictures."

"She looked at all the pictures and she called and said, 'Could you use a photographer?,' recalled Kathleen Coleman with the Texas Dachshund Rescue Foundation. And I said, 'Yes!'"

The way people saw the animals changed entirely. Berg's pictures show animals in a portrait environment in her North Dallas studio. Their eyes sparkle with personality. Some of the female animals wear a pearl necklace which they seem to carry with a certain pride. Others appear to sport a smile or a even exude serenity.

"I think you have to make that dog look like a potential member of the family," Berg said.

Coleman was thrilled.  "When I saw what she could do with their expression and spirit I thought, "Oh! My goodness!"

What Berg's work had done was elevate the animal to the being that connects with a human heart. Immediately, the dog rescue group's adoption rate soared.

"We would cut foster care from three to six months down to eight weeks," Berg said. "That made me feel good."

"It's almost like she can capture the soul of a dog in the photograph," said Jennifer Pearson, who just adopted one of Berg's subjects, a long-haired dachshund named Heidi, three weeks ago.

Pearson thought she'd found the right dog just by seeing a portrait of Heidi. And when she finally met Heidi?

"This is what you saw in the photograph," Pearson laughs as Heidi climbs lovingly in her arm and gently nuzzled her face. "It was just this precious little red head!"

And every time Berg gives a photograph to animal rescue groups, she gets something too.

"Every time I see one of these dogs I see a happy family, or a happy kid with a dog in his lap," Berg said.  "That's hundreds of dogs over the years. It makes me feel like I've done something good for someone I never met. It's passing it forward."

Berg now trains people in the art of dog portrait photography and encourages them to adopt at least one animal shelter so their work can save lives too.

Click here to see more of Berg's work.

Click here for more on the shelter Berg works with.

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