Mistletoe #81087©2012
Adopted 12/22/12, after 39 days at the shelter.
Rose #82564©2013
Adopted 2/20/13, after 55 days in the shelter.
Karsten #87239©2013
Adopted 8/13/13, after 116 days in the shelter.
LadyBell #113184©2013
After four years in the shelter system, and in-and-out of foster care, LadyBell’s foster mom adopted her in 2018.
Zeta #99058©2014
Sent to rescue 6/23/14, after 159 days in the shelter system.
Chanel #15541©2015
Sent to rescue and adopted in 2015.
Bronco #80420©2014
Adopted 4/4/14, after 48 days in the shelter system.
Percy #81483.©2013
Adopted 2/8/13, after 73 days in the shelter.
Pigpen #85852.©2013
Euthanized 6/5/2013 for kennel aggression, after 75 days in the shelter.
Mario Batali #151669, Masaharu Morimoto #151668, and Padma Lakshmi #151677.©2014
Part of a litter of 15. They spent the first 97 days of their life on PC hold (protective custody of the state), and were adopted by the time they were six months old.

These are not cute pictures of dogs. These are dogs who have been homeless for at least two weeks, and now face euthanasia if they do not find a home. Each week I bring one dog from the county animal shelter and photograph him/her at Landfill Park, a former landfill converted into a public park.

The backdrop of Landfill Park is used for two reasons. First,the dogs will end up in a landfill if they do not find a home. They will be euthanized and their bodies will be buried deep in the landfill among our trash. Below the surface at Landfill Park there are more than 25,000 dogs buried. I think of this park as a burial ground. These photographs offer the last opportunity for these dogs to find homes. The second reason for the landfill location is because the county animal shelter falls under the same management as the landfill. This government structure reflects a societal value; homeless cats and dogs are just another waste stream. However, this landscape offers a metaphor of hope. It is a place of trash that has been transformed into a place of beauty. I hope the viewer also sees the beauty in these homeless, unloved creatures.

As part of this photographic process, each dog receives a car ride, a walk, treats, and about 2 hours of much-needed individual attention. My goal is to offer an individual face to the souls that are lost because of animal overpopulation, and give these animals one last chance. As the project continues, we see the landscape change with the seasons while the constant stream of dogs remains the same. As part of this project, I photographed 192 dogs from Wake County Animal Center in Raleigh, NC. 170 found homes or were sent to rescue, and 22 were euthanized for various reasons. —Shannon Johnstone

This is a tight edit of ten images and seven selected adoption stories. The Landfill Dogs project has it's own dedicated website at LandfillDogs.com

Adoption Stories
Willie (now Jack)

Willie was a 6 year old pit mix who had been in the shelter without foster care for 47 days.

Week after week went by and Willie grew more despondent and detached. When we took him for his photoshoot, he wasn’t interested in anything. As we were walking back to the car, a fire truck pulled up behind us. For some reason, I flagged the firetruck down and asked if I could photograph Willie on their truck. They agreed, and this image (top right) became his Landfill Dog cover photo.

A few days later, I was out running in the park, and a man on a bike recognized me and asked if the dog I photographed got a home. He told me his name was David. He had been the driver of the fire truck, and he asked several questions about Willie's history and temperament. David said he had thought daily about Willie.

David arrived at the shelter the next day before they opened, with cash in hand because he didn’t want anyone else to adopt Willie. When they brought David back to meet Willie, Wille was uninterested. The person at the shelter told him he had withdrawn and was depressed. This did not deter David. He simply said, “This is my dog. It was meant to be.” David happily carried Willie out of the shetler in his arms. Willie is now named Jack and lives with David and his wife, Stacie. They love him dearly. He is the only pet they have had “besides goldfish.”

Unfortunately, Jack passed away in 2019, but David and Stacie adopted another pit bull named Sam.

Bellosum (now Bella, or Boo Dawg)

By January 8 2016, Bellosum had been waiting patiently for 138 days in a kennel at the Wake County Animal Center. As a 40 pound black pit-mix with heartworms, she was often ignored by visitors, passed over for the smaller cuter dogs.

Like other adopters, Cindy and her daughter Kayla came into the center looking for a small dog. But as they walked past Bellosum's kennel, they saw a quiet dog wagging her tail and Kayla was smitten. She went into the cage and Bellosum climbed into Kayla's lap and leaned against her, and a bond was formed. After coming to visit her every day for a week, they finally adopted her.

The non-profit Friends of Wake County (where all the Landfill Dogs book proceeds go) paid for Bellosum's heartworm treatment. Now Bella, or Bella Boo Dawg, is happy and healthy and enjoys spending her day laying in the sun that comes from the large window in the front room. As the sun moves across the room during the day, Bella will get up and move her bed to stay in the sunbeam. Every morning begins with a face massage given by Cindy, and ends with Bella hogging the bed.

Now, every year on January 8th, Cindy, Kayla and Bella celebrate the day they met. The first year they made peanut butter carrot pup-cakes, but apparently, Kayla ate most of them. It is a true family.

Shannon (now Layla Shannon)

On a cold evening in December 2013, a good Samaritan found an emaciated 4-year old dog running loose on Highway 64 near Knightdale Seafood. They brought her to the Wake County Animal Center so that she would not be hit by a car. That evening I happened to be in the shelter lobby photographing when she was brought in, and so she assumed the shelter name “Shannon”. Thankfully, Shannon quickly got in to foster care for some much needed TLC. By spring, Shannon was ready for adoption.

Around the same time, Karen began following the Landfill Dogs Facebook page. She saw the pictures of Shannon (now Layla), and the sadness and love in her eyes really spoke to her. Her husband David said the same thing and adopted her not long after.

Layla has spent the last seven years enjoying all kinds of adventures. From Maryland to Florida, Layla savors road trips with her humans up and down the eastern seaboard. Her favorite thing to do in Maryland is chase crabs on the beach, and in Florida she is no friend to lizards and is determined to chase them in every direction. At home Layla enjoys driving squirrels from her yard, lounging with her humans, and receiving all kinds of love. She is a gentle soul (except to lizards, squirrels, and crabs) and quite sensitive. Karen remarked that she is often cold, so she has all kinds of outfits to keep her warm. “She has more drawers of clothes than I do”, David added.


When Ruby came into the Wake County Animal Center, she loved every human, but did not like other dogs AT ALL. Dogs with such severe dog aggression are not allowed to be adopted to the public, and understandably no rescue would take her. With no other options, Ruby was almost out of time. But just before her final hold date, an incredible foster family came to her rescue. They pitched a proposal to WCAC describing how they would work with Ruby through “Behavioral Adjustment Training” (a patient and positive approach to rehabilitation and socialization).

After months of working with Ruby they were able to bring her out in public, and even found she was particularly smitten with another Landfill Dog dog named Marlon Tucson— (pictured left in top photo).

The foster family made sure Ruby would go to a home where she would be loved, and that the adopters could work with her and set her up for success. Ruby found the perfect home almost a year later with Andrea Armistead.

Although Ruby’s dislike of most other dogs has not subsided, she is living a very good life. She is now 8-years old and has her very own chair in the living room along with a box full of toys. Ruby enjoys running around the yard, taking her human dad skateboarding, and being fed from her 18-month old human brother, Harrison. Unfortunately, once Harrison started eating solid food, Ruby lost her slender physique. Ruby loves her family and is excited to share the news that a human sister is coming along in May.

Jumpin Bean (now Archer)
Jumpin Bean came into the shelter as a full grown puppy. At ten months old, he never stopped moving and was appropriately named. On his photo shoot he was out of control and only focused for treats and tennis balls.

It took just over an hour before Jumpin Bean got a little tired and laid down for a minute. When we brought him back to the shelter, I thought, “Wow, at least he got one good day. This dog is a project, and no one wants a project.”

The photo shoot was in October (2013), just before Halloween, so I added a red Superman cape in Photoshop.

Less than two weeks later, after Jumpin Bean had spent 123 days in the shelter, a young man, Brandon, came in to adopt him. He had seen the Landfill Dogs photos, especially the one with the cape, and thought, “That looks like a cool dog.” Brandon said he was interested in adopting a dog that no one else wanted. I was incredibly touched by his compassion and selflessness.

Archer and Brandon are doing well, and Jumpin Bean fans can follow Archer on his own Facebook page listed under his new name, “Archer Klima.”

Winnie came into the Wake County Animal Center in August of 2013. She was found running loose and no one came to claim her. As bad luck would have it, Winnie was adopted and returned three times over the next 210 days. This poor 4-year old dog just couldn’t get a break.

In March 2014, a rescue group called “Wags 4 Tags” came looking for an adult dog with a kind temperament that could be pulled into their program and be trained as a service dog.

They had a soldier, Louie, who needed help with PTSD. In turn, Winnie needed a stable home and a human she could be loyal to. It was a perfect fit for two hearts that needed to heal.

Weezy/ Paco
Weezy #91971
In May 2014, I called the family that had adopted a Landfill Dog named Weezy. I try to do follow up photo shoots with all the families that adopt Landfill Dogs to show the dogs in their new homes. Unfortunately, in this case the adoption had not worked out. After Weezy had destroyed some furniture, the family had taken Weezy to their local shelter in Davidson County.

I feel a special connection to all the Landfill Dogs, so I needed to help him. After several phone calls, I discovered that Weezy was scheduled for euthanasia via gas chamber at the Davidson County shelter. The Wake County Animal Center, where Weezy had spent 194 days waiting for a home, agreed to take him back and give him another chance if I transported him.

However when I went to pick up Weezy in Davidson County, they brought out a different dog. In a case of mistaken identity, the wrong dog had been spared from the gas chamber. It turned out that Weezy had been euthanized days before, and the dog standing before me with a wagging tail was just a nameless stray dog who had never been claimed. Just one of the statistics. He was one of the some 200,000 animals destined to be euthanized in North Carolina each year due to overpopulation.

I named him Paco (nickname for St. Francis, the patron saint of animals). We made him a Landfill Dog in June 2014. He was adopted later that summer and is now in a loving home. The people who follow Landfill Dogs even raised an additional $1000 for the adoptive mom to take him to dog training classes.

This story illustrates the message I am trying to convey with Landfill Dogs. Every dog deserves a chance at a loving home. The shelters do the very best they can, but in the end, there are too many cats and dogs and not enough homes. People do not need to buy a pet from a breeder, there are good ones waiting at the shelter right now. If everyone did this, we could save all the Weezys and Pacos.