If you’ve ever seen a dog wearing a cone, you might have noticed they generally look a little sadder than other dogs.

This is something that art student Erin Einbender noticed whilst she volunteered at One Tail at a Time dog rescue centre.

The “cones of shame” are used to stop animals from scratching, licking or biting their stitches post surgery to avoid damage or infection. Yet as their name suggests, these cones can be a little humiliating for animals to wear.

During her time at One Tail at a Time, Einbender realised that the pups who were required to wear a cone were making it very clear that they didn’t enjoy it, and this unhappiness transferred onto their likelihood to be adopted – so she decided to put her degree to the test and get creative.

Most dogs who are put up for adoption in rescue centres such as One Tail are spayed or neutered, and in some states this sterilisation is mandatory. So whilst it may not be an uncommon occurrence, it doesn’t make it anymore pleasant.

As Einbender was brainstorming ideas for her final project, she had the brilliant idea to complete her project and help the dogs find loving forever homes at the same time. Thus her project “Cones of Fames” began.

“All of the dogs are spayed and neutered at One Tail at a Time before they’re adopted,” Einbender said. “The dogs looked so sad in their cones, and cones have been associated with shame. I wanted to empower the dogs while educating people on the importance of spaying and neutering pets. I realised I could use photography and my knowledge of social media to help the dogs find forever homes.”

Einbender started transforming the bland cones using bright colours and fun patterns so that when people came to see the dogs they would smile and laugh instead of feeling sorry for them. The fancy cones weren’t just for the potential new dog owners however, they were designed to help lift the dogs’ spirits too.

“I went to Michaels craft store and spent $200 on brightly coloured pom-poms, fake flowers, butterflies and gemstones, anything that would stand out and make a dog feel special,” Einbender recalled. “I then had a few craft sessions with the One Tail at a Time rescue volunteers, where we decorated the cones together.”

When the cone is beautifully decorated, Einbender gifts it to a dog in place of the old, boring one and proceeds to have a fun photoshoot with them to showcase their personalities.

“It does seem like the dogs realise they are special once they have a decorated cone on,” Einbender said. “Some dogs smile and pose; it’s super cute.”

Each cone is designed to make each dog shine in their own unique way, whether that’s with features…

… little foam hearts…

… pom poms…

… and even pretty flowers.

Clearly these Cones of Fame are having a positive impact, as every single dog who’s been photographed wearing one of the fun designs has since been adopted.

“The project has brought a lot of press to One Tail at a Time dog rescue and rescuing dogs in general,” Einbender said. “I’m going to connect with more rescues in the Chicago area and focus more on long-term dogs that are having trouble being noticed/getting adopted.”

Einbender will take her project one step further by hosting a Cones of Fame art opening through One Tail at a Time, where she’ll be selling the prints of her stunning photos. She may not need the project for her school work any longer, but she hopes to continue working on the Cones of Fame project for as long as she can to help many more deserving dogs find the forever homes they’ve waiting so patiently for.