TENINO, WASH. - Photographer Annie Musselman thinks wild animals in sanctuaries can teach us all something about compassion.
She has such a gentle touch she's allowed behind the scenes with her camera at Wolf Haven International, a Washington sanctuary that rescues and breeds wolves.
"They're so smart and curious," said Musselman. "I feel like they're my family. I never feel afraid, especially with some of these animals that I've developed a bond with, I just feel safe and comfortable, and they sense that."
She started photographing animals when she volunteered at another wildlife shelter in 2002 to regroup after her mother passed away.
"I felt that as a photographer I could somehow change the way people see them by viewing them up close. And so I started taking pictures," she said.
The pictures became a book: Finding Trust.
Some of the images are poignant. Some are powerful. They're all unforgettable, like a photograph of an injured rabbit being put to rest called "Cottontail going to Heaven."
Musselman says watching these animals fight to survive--or accept their fate gracefully -- helped her become a better human being.
"I think that they are what we're meant to be. The innocence and the perfection."
Also, Musselman doesn't try to hide the fences in her shots.
"I think showing the fence is reminding people what we've done to these super wild beautiful creatures."
Wendy Spencer is Wolf Haven's Director of Animal Care. She explains why Musselman works well here:
"Annie just has really good energy, and one of the things we love about Annie is she tries to showcase the animals as individuals and tell their story, so that's really important to us. She's a good fit for Wolf Haven."
The shoot wraps up.
As the photographer leaves, the wolf pack starts to howl.
They're not saying goodbye...they're just doing what wolves do.
But it's still music to the ears of anyone who deals with animals that can no longer live in the wild.
"I feel like I'm getting the real deal when I'm with them, and I feel really, really happy."
Copyright 2016 KING