'They’re so cute and people might not recognize that there’s so (many) dogs that don’t have homes yet.'
Editor's note: This article was originally published on November 23, 2022. It has since been updated.
Zoey Henry, 11, has struggled with health issues. She underwent a year of treatment to reduce the tumor after receiving the diagnosis of an incurable brain stem cancer. When the Make-A-Wish organization gave Zoey the opportunity to realize her aspirations, she carefully considered what she wanted and decided on: to capture images of dogs. That's how she ended up at New York City's Washington Square Park, trying to hold a ball in front of a dog's face to get her attention, then pulling it back while taking a shot. One dog, named Roo, waited calmly as Zoey worked on her dog photography techniques. Elias Weiss Friedman, a professional dog photographer known as The Dogist for his adorable dog photos, served as her mentor for her Make-A-Wish experience. For Friedman, it's a first. “We were very humbled and honored that someone wanted us as their wish,” Friedman tells TODAY.
Zoey's family had always assumed that she was just uncoordinated; her adoring family even used the moniker "clumsy Zoey" for her. She stumbled one day in 2019 before continuing to do so the following day. “She kept on falling .... When we tried to talk to her, she started crying. Her face went slack on one side,” says her mom, Tamara. “She was slurring.” When the family finally took her to the hospital, they realized that she has a type of brain cancer called Glioma. “When they first told me, I was shocked,” Zoey says. “I always thought I was clumsy, and I just tripped over air.”
In order to reduce the tumor, Zoey underwent chemotherapy for a year. The medication also prevented the tumor from expanding. Most of the things that Zoey's twin sister and friends like, she can also enjoy. However, the tumor has left some long-lasting health issues behind, including a foot drop and issues with emotions and memory. Zoey thought about what she wanted to do for Make-A-Wish and decided right away that she wanted to work with dogs. Diesel, the family dog, helped her cope with chemotherapy and has the pleasure to be the subject Zoey likes to photograph the most. “I love him very much and he’s a very photogenic dog,” Zoey said.
“I thought maybe I can take pictures of these other dogs,” Zoey says. “They’re so cute and people might not recognize that there are so (many) dogs that don’t have homes yet.” Zoey received a camera from Make-A-Wish, and Friedman assisted her in choosing a lens and adjusting the camera strap. Since dogs are unpredictable, getting the shot requires quick thinking. “You have to be quick and ready,” Friedman said. “You’re capturing this moment of attention that the dog is giving you and sometimes that attention disappears in the next second.” Zoey faced a lot of difficulties photographing her furry friends but was able to handle them gracefully. She shared how some dogs got so excited they came and licked her camera. “But I got some good shots,” she said.
The two proceeded to Tompkins Square after Washington Square Park to observe the dogs in costumes for the yearly Halloween parade. Friedman saw Zoey snapping shots swiftly amidst the commotion of people and pets. Later, Zoey met and took pictures of shelter dogs with Friedman at St. Hubert's Animal Welfare Center in Madison, New Jersey. The Dogist released a reel from that day and asked people to donate because she wanted to raise money to rescue the puppies. She has already raised close to $14,000. “That money didn’t exist before Zoey’s video went up so that’s all Zoey’s inspiration,” Friedman said. “People are very moved by that whole Make-A-Wish.”
Friedman believes Zoey will gain confidence from this encounter. For two days, Zoey's pictures were published in The Dogist. The encounter strengthened Friedman's motivation for carrying on his work. “She could have had any wish in the world. She picked something that was so true to herself,” he says. “Dogs don’t know how to fake it for the camera. They just are themselves. They’re this funny, beautiful, honest subject and they have the same emotions that we do, and we can see how they express themselves … it’s just so wholesome and honest and real.”