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Leather Camera

October 26, 2017


By: Melody Cox

COLUMBIA - Luci Branyan is a photographer and small business owner that uses her expertise to help highlight the adoptable dogs in her community.

   Branyan uses her photography background to show the dogs coming out of their shells while they are wearing colorful and unique collars made by hand. She donates these collars to local animal rescues and shelters to help the dogs find a true home.

   “I read an article somewhere that said dogs get more attention from potential new owners if they have a colorful collar on, so I started experimenting and creating designs,” she said.

   These designs vary from seasonal themes with pumpkins and leaves for fall time to a brown and robin egg blue weave. Branyan’s personal favorite varies day to day, but she loves the ones that match the dog’s personality. For example, one of the collars has a hot pink background with little pastel flowers all over it, and she thinks her dog Leeshka likes it.

   “I have three dogs – Duke, Leeshka and Titus – and my business helped me spend time with them because I used them as inspiration for design and to test out products,” Branyan said.

   The idea for her business came from her experiences walking dogs at the Jefferson City animal shelter.

   Through volunteering there, she met Ginger Steinmetz. Steinmetz opened Poverty Farms Animal Rescue, LLC in the late 1990s to help owners in mid-Missouri find ways to pay for their animal’s vet expenses. Sometimes, owners decide to leave their dogs in Steinmetz’s care permanently, and she wanted them to find new homes.

   Branyan approached Steinmetz about a potential collaboration between the two where Branyan would donate her handmade collars to the animal rescue and take pictures of the dogs to help them get adopted.

   “She really helps the dogs get adopted by showing their true personality,” Steinmetz said. “The way she interacts with the animals is really good. She helps them come out of their shell.”

   Steinmetz really admires Branyan’s compassion and love for dogs. “She spends a lot of personal, free time with these dogs without complaint. She puts in so much time and effort,” Steinmetz said.

   “I think about 10 or 11 dogs have been adopted since I started donating the collars. She has a smaller operation because it’s not a shelter, so it’s still pretty significant,” Branyan said.

   Before Branyan was making colorful collars to help dogs get adopted, she was a photographer and graphic designer at the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the Division of Tourism for 17 years.  Because of budget cuts and new requirements of the job, she decided to leave in March 2011 to focus on photography.

   “I decided to leave because I didn’t love graphic design because it was sitting at a computer all day,” Branyan said.

   Through her work in the capital, she met Scott Hamilton, now a close friend. He is very supportive of her switch from working for Missouri’s government to working with animals every day.

   “She loves her job, and she has a huge heart for animals. My favorite thing about her is her artistic talent, so I’m very happy to see her use it in a fantastic way,” Hamilton said.

   Julie Mealy, a close friend of around 15 to 20 years, often helps her with the business by setting up booths at various festivals around Missouri.

   “She’s super helpful, and I’m very grateful for all the help she gives,” Branyan said.

   Mealy admires the business because it’s a way for Branyan to show her love for dogs.

   “I really do admire what she’s doing,” Mealy said. “She really does have a love for animals and helping them in any way she can.”

   Her love for animals really shows when she talks about how her job is better for her passion.

   “I really enjoy my job now. I get to hang out with animals all day, so it’s great for me,” Branyan said.

   Steinmetz respects Branyan’s hard work and dedication to helping these dogs find their family.  

   “I don’t know if thank you is enough. Thank you [Branyan] for your compassion. Thank you for finding dogs good homes,” Steinmetz said.  

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