You may judge this book by its cover

  • Dogland
  • April 16, 2015
  • by Jacki Skole

I can only hope the reviews of Dogland will be as glowing as the accolades over its cover.

I have two people to thank for that: Matt Smith, the graphic artist who designed the cover and Shannon Johnstone, the photographer who captured an image at once haunting and uplifting—a perfect metaphor for the story itself.

I wrote about Johnstone in a blog post in 2013, after coming across her Landfill Dogs series. In it, Johnstone trains her lens on dogs who have been in North Carolina’s Wake County shelter for at least fourteen days, who will be euthanized if not adopted. The photos—taken at the county landfill and posted on the shelter’s website—are a final effort to save the dogs’ lives.

More and more photographers, like Johnstone, are donating their time and talent to taking pictures of shelter animals, and for good reason. Increasingly, want-to-be pet owners are turning to the Internet to do their initial search. That means online, image is everything, and powerful images move animals out of  shelters— and they do so quickly.

Take Dogland’s cover dog.

Johnstone photographed the two-year-old pit bull on January 17, 2013. At the time of his photo shoot, the young pit, who shelter staff had named Ice Frosting, had been in the shelter for twenty days. His time was running out.

Then his picture hit the net.

Landfill Dog: Ice Frosting
Landfill Dog: Ice Frosting

Within days, Wags, a small animal rescue out of Bucks County, PA was negotiating his release. A Wags volunteer had seen Ice Frosting’s photo online and was smitten. The rescue wanted to bring him north, to find him a home.

In his first week in Pennsylvania, Ice Frosting went through two foster homes. He was thin, his coat wiry. He was skittish. He didn’t seem to like men. So Wags’ foster coordinator, Emily Schnarr, decided to take him in.

She fell in love.

Schnarr says she’s fostered “a ton of dogs,” but Ice Frosting is the only foster she “couldn’t let go of.” She also says that in their time together he’s filled out physically, has overcome his skittishness, and has been certified a Canine Good Citizen through the American Kennel Club’s training program.

He’s also no longer known as Ice Frosting. He’s now Ice Man. And Ice Man, I’m happy to report, is living the life he deserves.

In an email to Johnstone, Schnarr wrote, “He is loved and cherished and still so photogenic.” She even provided the evidence:

Ice Man (left) and a foster friend.
Ice Man (right) and a foster friend.
Handsome guy
Handsome guy


Shannon Johnstone’s plan, when she conceived of Landfill Dogs, was to shoot the series at the county landfill over the course of a year. In her artist statement she says she wanted viewers to “see the landscape change while the constant stream of dogs remains the same.” But the year passed, and Johnstone has yet to put down her camera. You can read about Landfill Dogs at her website. You can also help the dogs in the Wake County shelter with your donations.

7 thoughts on “You may judge this book by its cover”

  1. It is a beautiful book. I am honored that this photograph graces the cover. Thank you for your attention to detail, and your clear and compelling writing of this complex issue. It is masterfully done!

  2. Shannon Johnstone’s cover is mesmerizing. It is very powerful. So glad that Ice Man is doing so well in his wonderful new home. Looking forward to reading your book!

  3. Our family is forever grateful to Shannon Johnstone. Because of her work we adopted our sweet girl Phyllis from the Wake County Animal shelter. We had the pleasure of meeting Shannon and she is a beautiful person inside and out. I could see the passion & love she has for what she does.

  4. I love this cover so much — Shannon and Matt are so talented. Thanks for sharing the story of Ice Frosting (aka Ice Man) … it’s wonderful to see him enjoying his new life!!

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