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A photographer ‘accidentally’ found a way to help hundreds of dogs get adopted

Rachael Rodgers is a photographer who documents her road trips on Instagram.

But her travel companions aren’t family members or friends — they’re dogs without permanent homes.

Rodgers, who lives in the small hamlet of Exshaw in Alberta, Canada, said she has traveled with hundreds of dogs across Canada, plus three U.S. states — Washington, Utah and Oregon.

And it all started with an Instagram post, she said.

“There was no plan for such a project in the beginning,” she told CNBC. “I just found I had more followers on Instagram than I felt the need to post my personal photos to, so I decided to volunteer at a local shelter to take adoptable dogs out for photos and post them instead.”

I do it because I have accidentally developed this … ability to change a dog’s life.
Rachael Rodgers
Photographer

Her first post about a rescue dog went viral, and she’s been photographing canine companions ever since, she said.

Rodgers works with more than 20 shelters now, she said, picking up dogs to take them hiking and kayaking at national and provincial parks. Even on her personal travels, Rodgers said she makes an effort to volunteer at shelters along the way.

Paddy, Aurora and Wilma are available for adoption, said Rodgers — at Canada’s Claws Animal Rescue, Animal Rescue Foundation and Lillian Albon Animal Shelter, respectively.
Source: Rachael Rodgers

She said nearly every dog that she has photographed has been adopted, with the exception of three: Paddy, Aurora and Wilma, shown above.

Traveling with man’s best friend

Rodgers’ work can be found on her Instagram account @trailsandbears, which showcases hundreds of dogs in the Canadian wilderness engaging in activities ranging from kayaking in Moraine Lake, Alberta, to mountain hiking in the Yukon, a territory in Canada.

“I usually go 60 to 90 minutes in any direction from where I live to start the adventure,” she said. “I make a flexible plan based on what information I get ahead of time about the dog.”

She tries to capture each dog’s personality in her photographs, she said. To do so, she said she chooses activities that each dog likes to showcase its strengths to potential adopters.

“The dogs usually ride in the back of my car … sometimes they prefer shotgun,” she said, adding that she usually posts videos of the dogs en route, so people can see how they respond to car rides.

Rodgers and Feta, a puppy from the Whitehorse Humane Society, share a moment at a deserted gold mine in the Yukon, Canada. Feta has since been adopted.
Source: Rachael Rodgers

“It used to be tricky a few years ago to show up at a [shelter],” she said. “I got some strange looks and lots of rejections. But the reaction I get these days — a lot of the time I don’t have to explain what I would like to do.”

Someone usually recognizes her from her Instagram page, she said.

The need for better representation

Rodgers told CNBC Travel that traveling with rescue dogs can be challenging, but the need to represent them motivates her to keep volunteering.

Rodgers plays with three shelter dogs.
Source: Rachael Rodgers

“I do it because I have accidentally developed this tool, audience and ability to change a dog’s life, not because I like to or want to,” she said.

Rodgers said it’s vital to show rescue dogs in real-world environments too.

“You can’t judge a dog based on his or her character in a shelter environment — it’s not a natural space,” she said. “It’s imperative to get them out into a natural environment and do things their adoptive family may do with them,” she said.

For owners who want to travel with dogs, she recommends keeping an eye on a dog’s mood.

“And give them mental health stops to get out and sniff around to lighten things up,” she said.

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