Photographer captures powerful bond between LGBTQ community, their rescue dogs

The bond between a pet and its owner is a special one — and one local photographer is exploring just how powerful that bond between the transgender community and their rescue dogs can be.

Don't You Want Me project tells stories of hope, resilience as LGBTQ members transition, grow

'Had it not been for Marcy I would not have survived the pandemic. I don’t say that lightly. She was the one thing that has been constant, by my side. Some days I stayed alive and kept going only for her,' Lucas Silveira says. (Submitted by Jack Jackson)

The bond between a pet and its owner is a special one — and one local photographer is exploring just how powerful the bond can be between the LGBTQ community and their rescue dogs.

Saturday marked the first day of Transgender Awareness Week, and the Don't You Want Me project is kicking it off, looking at the powerful bond between trans and queer people and their rescue dogs, through compelling photos.

The photo project aims to share some of the unique journeys humans share with their fur babies and the impact it has had on their lives as they transition and grow together.

"The rescue dog has been through this difficult situation and once it has security it transforms," said Jack Jackson, co-founder of the project.

"All those anxieties and fears, aggression have gone, and it's the same with some of the people in the project."

Marcy, a Chihuahua, came into Lucas Silveira's life a year after his divorce. The trans singer-songwriter said she gave him a reason to get up in the morning, and to take care of himself so he can keep her safe. (Submitted by Jack Jackson)

Jackson moved to Canada 10 years ago from a small island in the English Channel. Leaving his career in finance, Jackson, who experienced transphobia as a trans man, was unemployed before he found photography and began to photograph dogs, as well as the queer and trans community.

"I was not doing well, it was a very difficult time and I ended up completely by myself," he said. Then, he rescued his dog Jet.

"The thing that got me going and moving was Jet," Jackson said.

He then began capturing others rescue dogs and their owners. 

Stella, who identifies as a pansexual femme, said Jada was a huge factor helping her get clean and sober. 'She has turned my life around and I will never be able to thank her enough,' she says. (Submitted by Jack Jackson)

"The project isn't all mental health or vulnerability … it's also stories of transformation," Jackson said. "It's all about giving inspiration and giving hope to some younger people."

One of the pet-owner relationships captured in the project is Lucas Silveira and his pet Chihuahua, Marcy. Marcy entered his life five years ago, about a year after his divorce.

Silveira, a Canadian singer-songwriter with The Cliks, is also the first out trans man signed to a major record deal. He's clear: Marcy rescued him. 

At the time, an old friend of Silveira who could not keep her dog anymore called him to say she needs to give Marcy to him.

"I love Chihuahuas," Silveira said. "I was going through a really really hard time … through a lot of depression, not only because of my divorce but also transition can be very difficult at times. It's been an incredible journey since, to sort of be re-born and re-learn who I am."

From left to right: Amie, Diana, Nassau, Kyle, Nacho. 'As two queer women of colour, we experience so much invalidation from society - whether it’s for our gender, sexual orientation, race ... or some combination of the three ... Nassau is the only thing in our life that carries absolutely zero judgement.' (Submitted by Jack Jackson)

Silveira struggles with agoraphobia, a type of anxiety disorder in which you fear places or situations that might cause you to panic or make you feel trapped or helpless — which heightened for him during the pandemic. Without Marcy, who became certified as an emotional support dog two months ago, he said he wouldn't have a reason to keep going.

"She's been an incredible support to me, and life-saving to be honest," Silveira said. "If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't have a reason to get up in the morning, I wouldn't have a reason to make sure I was taking care of myself so that I could keep her safe."

The Don't You Want Me project can be found online. A walk-through exhibit will also be at Pet Valu stores across Canada.

'Shortly after I got Kulu, I had top surgery, and she got spayed - we were both healing together ... we both understand trauma and we both thrive when we have security and trust. She was adjusting to city life post-surgery, and I was growing into my new body. We did it together, side by side,' says Nanook, left. (Submitted by Jack Jackson)


Sara Jabakhanji


Sara Jabakhanji is a general assignment reporter with CBC News in Toronto. You can reach her at

With files from Dalia Ashry