Meet Rachael Rodgers. She’s a photographer, artist and outdoor enthusiast who lives in Canmore, Alberta, a gorgeous town in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. She also loves dogs — her own and pretty much every single pup at her local animal shelters — and exploring with them in the wilderness.
It all started last year after she posted a photo kayaking with her rescue dog Denali on her Instagram account, @trailsandbears. The snap went viral and thousands of other dog lovers started following along:
Rodgers asked herself how she could use Instagram for something good. Then she realized she could share her Insta-fame with shelter dogs by photographing them outside of a shelter setting. “It’s a way to get more positive publicity for adoptable dogs,” Rodgers told Outside. “A shelter isn’t a place where you’re going to see their true character.”
Into the Wild
Since 2017, Rodgers has helped 30 dogs find their forever homes. “It’s not just humans finding love online these days,” she shared on her website. And she still finds time to venture out with her own dogs, Beans and Denali:
Rodgers took this adoptable pup named Miskha out for a kayaking excursion on Barrier Lake. She tagged the shelter so interested followers could find her:
Even if you don’t live in the middle of the most gorgeous wilderness on earth, you can help local shelters just like Rodgers. To get started, you should call animal shelters in your area and ask about volunteer opportunities. Many will allow outings with adoptable dogs after completing a volunteer orientation.
Whatever activity you choose, you’ll want to snap photos to share the experience and get the word out about the pups. Rodgers uses an SLR camera and her go-to is a wide-angle lens to catch every detail of the pup’s expressions.
She caught each individual whisker on this dog named Chica’s smiling face. You can just tell this pup is loving her adventure:
No matter what camera you use, Rodgers recommended bringing treats for food-motivated dogs, as well as a winter coat for the pup if its cold out and a dog floatation device if they plan to be on the water. She also said keeping eye-contact during the photo session is vital because frightened dogs aren’t photogenic.
However, happy dogs out on adventures are extremely photogenic. This picnicking pup named Diesel was a great hiking companion and didn’t complain about the mountainous terrain:
This pup Baloo looks like he’s angling for a modeling contract in addition to a new family:
Rodgers takes the time to get to know the dogs both in and out of the shelter. On her Instagram posts, she shares their story and all about their personality quirks, like this middle-aged introvert named Dax who loves car rides:
Here’s a lovebug named Poppy, who was lucky enough to visit Rodgers and her family at home after their visit in nature:
Rodgers also shared a snap of this friendly fluffball named Luanne, who was thrilled to go for a car ride and play in the snow:
In contrast, this pup was a bit more apprehensive at first. Rodgers’s photo shows how quickly she warmed up. Ironically, all she needed was a pile of snow:
Rodgers funds her shelter dog outings with help from donations on her website. Even if you don’t have time to volunteer with dogs, you can help out by donating to her project here.
In the meantime, follow her on Instagram to see more of her cute canine adventures — and get inspired for your own!