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Remembering Mary Bloom Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

13 October 2021

Mary Bloom passed away Sept. 28 from gall bladder cancer in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., at the age of 81. A staff photographer for the Westminster Kennel Club, she shot the club's dog show for 21 years beginning in 1995.

She could be seen at the Westminster Dog Show in Madison Square Garden crawling around on her knees, compensating for the neuropathy that weakened her legs, to get shots of the breed winners.

The dogs posed for her but she never gave them treats. Instead, she got their attention with high-pitched noises.

"People will say, 'Oh, you're a dog whisperer,'" she said in a 2012 interview. "No, no, that's not it at all. I just understand who they are. I mean, not like past-life experience, but I'm familiar with how they feel."

That might have been because her mother raised Dalmatians and poodles. Bloom consequently fell in love with dogs, devouring publications like Popular Dogs and Dog World. She took the subway to her first Westminster show when she was only six years old.

The dogs posed for her but she never gave them treats.

"As I grew up, all I ever wanted for Christmas was the promise of a ticket to Madison Square Garden," she remembered.

She was born Mary Elizabeth Krackenbohm in the Bronx to a baker father and a mother who took in borders in addition to raising dogs. She worked for a computer company in the 1960s, marrying Leighton Bloom in 1968. The marriage lasted a decade.

She held other jobs, including working at an animal testing lab and as a department store saleswoman. But in the mid-1970s she began freelancing as a photographer for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the North Shore Animal League.

She had taught herself photography.

Her work for the ASPCA as a dog groomer and wildlife rehabilitator inspired two children's books by Aliki, At Mary Bloom's and Overnight at Mary Bloom's.

In 1979 she joined a protest by the Fund for Animals off the coast of Labrador against the clubbing of baby harp seals on the Gulf of St. Lawrence. She had to sneak her exposed film back to the U.S. to avoid confiscation by Canadian officials where the Associated Press distributed the images.

She was part of the group in Morningside Heights that created the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine's annual Blessing of Animals to celebrate the Feast of St. Francis. For one such feast, she helped arrange for an elephant to lumber down the cathedral's center aisle for its blessing.

But dogs held a special place in her heart.

And her affection for them was returned unhesitatingly. They "taught me a lesson, comforted me, played sports and deprived me of loneliness, but above all, they loved me. A rare, unconditional love, which has nurtured me all my life."

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