‘Dawgs of LBC’ is a love letter to Long Beach’s streets, beaches and dogs
A man with impressive muscles and an intense stare, in tank top and ripped-knee jeans, rides a hoverboard down the bike path against a backdrop of sandy beach and a startlingly blue ocean. The man has presence, but follow the leash he’s holding down to the little dog determinedly chewing on the lead and it will be clear who the real subject of the photo is.
In “Dawgs of LBC,” a photojournalistic love letter to Long Beach streets, beaches and canines, dogs steal the show whether they’re the primary focus or part of the background. Photographer Marissa de la Torre, the book’s author, has snapped scores of canines in neighborhoods, in front of small businesses, at libraries, in parks and at beaches, and outside city limits in Wilmington, Lakewood and Signal Hill. Breeds and mutts alike are doing whatever dogs do, looking however they look with no opinion or judging by the photographer, and seemingly unconcerned about being photographic models. One dog matches the stalwart pose of the Lone Sailor statue in Bluff Park; another smiles on the couch inside the legendary V.I.P Records. Each one serves as a conduit for Long Beach’s soul.
“What I think of Long Beach, and what a lot of people think of Long Beach, is ‘quintessential beach town,’ but it was important to capture the urban aspect, too,” de la Torre said. “It was a catalyst for me to photograph the dogs and finish it by the end of the year. It’s kind of like a yearbook of LB 2022.”
De la Torre was brought up in the East Bay/Oakland area, with an amateur photographer for a father.
“I was an only child, I was his muse, and we bonded that way,” she said. “And we had pets around. From a young age, I gravitated toward dogs—and cats, but dogs were more integral to our family.”
In 2009, after studying broadcasting and music publishing at San Francisco State and pursuing street photography as a hobby, de la Torre migrated to Los Angeles. Attracted by an adoption event in a Petco parking lot, she asked one of the organizers if she’d like her to photograph the pets.
“That started my career in pet photography,” she said. “I’d go every Saturday. I started volunteering with shelters and rescues. Meanwhile, I was working in media tech and not too happy with what I was doing, so I started my own dog-walking and photography business in 2012. I did it for four years and also took photos of shelter pets.”
De la Torre expanded her lens range to humans, and then ended her dog-walking business in favor of “doing the freelance hustle photographing events, people, pets—animals, not just pets.” While in Los Angeles, she completed “Mammalz of DTLA,” an unromanticized collection of Los Angeles urban street lives of pets and people. When she moved to Long Beach in 2020, she began a similar project, “Dawgs of LBC,” to familiarize herself with the city and to meet people there.
The coronavirus made it difficult for de la Torre to meet people outside the house, and she didn’t know many of them, so she used social media to invite people and their dogs to free photoshoots. All dogs were welcome, mutt or breed, fixed or intact.
“I didn’t want to miss opportunities or make any judgments,” de la Torre said. “It made me more open-minded and able to represent what’s happening, showing where they’re at. And I met some really cool people!”
De la Torre scouted parts of the city and slightly beyond for interesting locations. During the sessions, even with all conditions right—sunlight, shadow, and backdrop—getting the canine subjects at the right angles was a pain in the hindquarters—she said that the dogs couldn’t have cared less about her. But the dogs’ personalities came through in all the shots she picked, and besides, who wants a perfectly postured pooch?
De la Torre determined which photos should represent SoCal vibrant color and which called for monochrome, urban tones of sepia or black and white. She and designer Pamela Steuri—“I couldn’t have had a creditable project without her management,” de la Torre said—finished by creating a strikingly representative portrait of Long Beach and its resident dogs, and by extension, its humans.
Circumstances recently took de la Torre, her boyfriend, and their two rescued Chihuahuas and one likewise saved cat to New Hampshire. She found work at a family-portrait business, but she hasn’t abandoned animals or volunteering. She cares for the horses at the New Hampshire SPCA, which has a considerable number of farm animals but only six dogs, eight cats, and a handful of various pocket pets and rabbits.
“That is a big takeaway for me,” she said. “[The shelters I knew] were packed—it’s a big deal, a big problem. It’s a community issue, it’s a government issue—it’s overpopulation with all these dogs not being fixed, backyard breeders.”
“Dawgs of LBC” presents the animals as they are, and readers might draw the similar conclusions. That’s what good art does.
The last page of “Dawgs of LBC” is dedicated to homeless animals, their rescue and adoption. Even with the overalls and boots she bought in New Hampshire to slop around the horse stables, de la Torre’s heart, soul and spirit will be forever urban and dedicated to the dawgs (and cats, too, of course) of LBC and DTLA.
If you want to adopt “Dawgs of LBC,” access de la Torres’ business web page. “Mammalz of DTLA” and samples of her photography of mammals of every number of legs are there, too.
Freddy was a hospice foster from Live Love Animal Rescue in Long Beach, an organization that has appeared on these pages more than once, and for good reason. Freddy has since passed away; his foster, Lucy, is a good friend of de la Torre.
“I went over there for a couple of times and met him—I love seniors!” de la Torre said. “I met Emily [Peters, Live Love’s founder], too. I saw the cases they were pulling, and I was amazed.”
So am I. If you’re considering adopting a dog, look at the cases they’ve pulled—click the website link, the places they were, and hopefully, the places they’ll go. Can one of them be your home?
All dogs have been spayed or neutered, vaxxed, vetted, microchipped and introduced to inter- and intraspecies love. To adopt any of them, fill out the adoption application on the website or email [email protected].
A helping paw
Just as with Thanksgiving, the winter holiday season is full of temptations for humans great and small and their pets. Unless you’ve foolishly giftwrapped a catnip toy and left it under the tree, the temptations go beyond trying to reach the top shelf in the closet to see if there’s a Flying Boomerang toy in a shopping bag. Certain food and plants—the cat chart left out mistletoe, which can be the kiss of death to pets—are toxic to cats and dogs. The tinsel on the tree and the ribbon on the packages can wreak havoc on the intestines if ingested, and If you spike the eggnog, keep it out of leaping or pawing reach. Please keep your best buddies safe this holiday. As with any medical emergency, get in touch with your vet or an emergency clinic if your pet eats something they shouldn’t.
Pet License Amnesty extended to Dec. 31
The city of Long Beach has extended the fee and penalty waivers for pet licenses to Dec. 31. Anyone living in the highlighted Community Development Block grant neighborhoods, as shown on the above map, may request a waiver by phone at 562-570-7387, by applying by mail at 7700 E. Spring St., or in person at the shelter. The waiver program is not available online. Visit this link and access the drop-down menu with the title “Do I Qualify for A Free New Pet License?” for details. Call 562-570-7387 for additional information.
Foster for a while—or furever!
The more than 200 LBACS dogs, cats and bunnies need your help. The city of Long Beach’s commitment to Compassion Saves means that animals in our care can live and thrive. We need our community to show its support of Compassion Saves by fostering, adopting, volunteering, and donating. The graphic shows a map of the shelter’s dog cottages. The darker the blue, the more dogs in the kennel. LBACS has reached urgent capacity with the influx of incoming animals to the shelter during the holidays. There is no more kennel space to take in more dogs at the shelter. To maintain the LBACS Compassion Saves model of helping those in greatest need—the sick, injured and abused—your help is needed to keep the healthy and lost pets out of the shelter. If you are interested in adopting, please email [email protected] or apply to foster here.
Long Beach Animal Care Services has expanded adoption hours as follows: Wednesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Guests are welcome to browse until closing. To speed up any adoption process, email [email protected]. To foster, email [email protected].
If you’ve always wanted a pet but aren’t sure if you’re ready for a lifetime (the animal’s) commitment, or if you’re past the pet-roommate days for any reason, fostering might be a great way to go, especially with one or more of the kittens popping up during kitten season. Every one of the organizations listed below is in desperate need of fosters who’ll social them and help save their little lives. Who knows—maybe one of those lives will change your mind about the not-ready-for-roommate thing!
These nonprofits also regularly feature cat, dog and rabbit adoptions. As of now, adoptions are mainly by appointment. Click on the links for each rescue in case of updates or changes. These organizations operate through donations and grants, and anything you can give would be welcome. Please suggest any Long Beach-area rescues to add to the list. Keep in mind that the rescues are self-supporting and need donations and volunteer help. Most of them cannot accept found or unwanted pets. Contact Long Beach Animal Care Services for options.
- Ally’s Animal Network
- Bunny Bunch
- Cat Cove
- Friends of Long Beach Animals
- Fix Long Beach
- Feline Good Social Club
- German Shepherd Rescue of Orange County
- Helen Sanders CatPAWS
- Ho’ola Dog Rescue
- House of Broken Cookies
- Jellicle Cats Foundation
- K-9 Kismet
- Little Lion Foundation
- Live Love Animal Rescue
- Long Beach Animal Care Services
- Long Beach Spay and Neuter Foundation
- Newborn Feline Rescue
- Pet Food Express Cat Adoption Center
- Pug Rescue of Korea
- SAFE Rescue Team
- Seal Beach Animal Care Center
- Sparky and the Gang Animal Rescue
- Stray Cat Alliance
- Wrigley Kittens
- Zazzy Cats
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