SADDLE BROOK, N.J. — The red line on the pavement behind a veterinary clinic in Connecticut was an enormous hurdle that Wally wasn’t quite sure he was ready to face.
That line and a mere three feet separated the golden retriever, tail tucked between his legs, from his new adoptive family.
Steve Quilliam, the Grateful Doggies transporter who helped rescue Wally, eventually coaxed the pup over that line, guiding him across that parking lot and toward the smiling strangers.
That Wally ultimately wound up in his new family’s arms was the culmination of a long rescue process.
But for Quilliam, the long hours of travel, being away from home and having to give up dogs to which he has become attached are worth it. He has participated in another successful rescue and that’s all that matters.
Saddle Brook photographer Eva Fazzari, 30, set out to capture it all in her photography series, "Freeway Project " — which earned her the Editor's Choice Award from CENTER in Santa Fe.
Fazzari's photographs chronicle the three-day, 3,000-mile journey of Grateful Doggies Freedom Transport Company between Alabama and Maine on which gas stations, welcome centers and vacant parking lots have yielded many a reluctant goodbye and happy hello.
“What’s interesting is that the locations we were making stops at were not inviting locations,” said Fazzari, a Dumont native. “They were all places of transit where you don’t expect to have an emotional involvement — places that provide no comfort. Emotions playing out in strange places intrigued me.”
Fazzari first became involved with Grateful Doggies in March 2014 when she brought a car full of Quilliam’s rescues to a local rescue.
She’d been taking photographs for local rescues but — after seeing the reality of rescue and transport — Fazzari was eager to take her passion for pets and pictures one step further.
She was influenced by photographer Amy Stein, who’s “Domesticated” series recreates interactions between man and animal. Fazzari then accompanied Quilliam on a May 2014 transport to capture the moments that animals met their new owners.
“We wanted to keep it as positive as possible,” Fazzari said. “I wanted to show the emotional exchanges between people and animals, and the effort of people that it takes to make rescue work.”
Fazzari has been on 15 transports up and down the east coast and has no plans to stop. The Freeway Project will be a photobook for purchase and likely a gallery exhibition upon completion, according to Fazzari, who added the project has also become personal.
“This is the first time I’ve been able to combine my passion for animals with my love of photography,” she said. “Right now, it feels like everything is starting to come together and make a lot of sense for me.”