With the car loaded, cooler in the backseat, we set off on the Miami freeway.
It was October 2020, during the phase of the pandemic when things were opening up, then closing. Then opening, then closing.
It was changing moment to moment.
I checked in on my email, as we barreled down the highway. And just like that, we suddenly found ourselves confirmed for a photography job that would require us to be traveling for the next three weeks. I looked at Chad and the long stretch of road to Atlanta ahead of us and said, Maybe we need to postpone this.
We were on our way to pick up a foster dog.
Let me explain…
A Once In a Lifetime Love
In 2018, we lost one of the loves of our lives: Axl. He was our first fur-baby, rescued via a commercial construction site that Chad was working on at the time. It was the early days of our relationship, and we’d bonded over our shared love of animals—particularly ones without families.
I’d been photographing animals at my local Humane Society since I was a fashion photographer’s assistant. When Chad and I started dating, we began volunteering together, one day a week, helping to walk the dogs.
Axl was one of those ‘once in a lifetime’ type of dogs. We shared everything with him—except some our travels. We even fostered puppies and kittens, with Axl’s help as the ‘big dog’ in the house. And we got really good at juggling destination photography with being pet owners.
When he passed away in 2018, it was hard to imagine our lives without him in it.
After Axl passed, we began fostering big dogs. Naturally, our first foster was a 165 lb. Great Dane named Polo.
We found that fostering allowed us to open our home and our hearts, when they were still tender. We found Polo’s affection to be incredibly therapeutic after losing our beloved Axl.
Fostering showed us how different breeds and dogs love in their own ways, and it gave us a soul who needed our love in return.
While Polo was in our care, we were able to help raise money for an eye surgery he required. And eventually, to help him find his forever home. He will always hold a special place in our hearts.
After Polo, we welcomed Foster Troy. He was the wildest and most unruly pup we’d met yet.
But he was also the most hilarious.
I personally believe he was sent from the heavens to teach Chad patience, because he pushed every single button Chad has. (Though you can’t tell from their handsome portrait.)
He turned into our quarantine buddy and when he was finally adopted, I really missed him. But Chad still wasn’t ready for “our” dog, nor was our work schedule at the moment.
But life had other plans.
Learning New Tricks
In October 2020, Chad got an Instagram message from a long-lost high school acquaintance. She’d been following our adventures in fostering and had just rescued a 9-month-old Newfoundland/Standard Poodle herself.
Said dog was “amazing.”
But also— “rambunctious” and “unruly.”
And although they had spent less than three weeks together, the dog would need a new home.
We immediately offered to help. The dog would need to get from North Carolina to Miami, so we offered to pick her up in Atlanta.
Cut to: barreling down the road and thinking this might not work.
We called up the acquaintance who was giving up the dog and said, Maybe we should push it a few weeks, given our new travel calendar.
Her reply: I can’t last a few weeks. I have her (the dog) in a crate in the garage and I try to let her out a couple of times a day.
We replied: We’ll be there in 8 hours.
We were in the middle of the Pandemic Rollercoaster just like everyone else in the industry, and we weren’t looking for a ‘forever dog’ in the slightest—especially a ‘doodle.’
Now, for all my doodle owners who just let out a *gasp,* let me explain.
In my years spent volunteering and staring into the eyes of dogs and cats that are living out their days in shelters, I’ve witnessed how many incredible, purebred animals end up in the rescue and shelter system.
The reality is breeding, breed trends and purchasing designer breeds leads to millions of dogs going unadopted and euthanized each year.
About 6.5 million dogs and cats enter shelters each year and about 1.5 million of them are euthanized. While this is down from 2.6 million in 2011, that’s still over 4000 animals killed each day.
The truth of these statistics is that about 34% of dogs are purchased from breeders. That means millions of shelter dogs losing their lives each year.
Rue—our imminent new housemate—was a prime example of a dog that was likely a Christmas present puppy, purchased for thousands of dollars and then given away due to a lack of training and understanding of her breed characteristics. Similar to the way amazing dogs like Polo and Troy—purebred Great Danes—found themselves looking for homes.
Let me be clear: I’m not remotely anti-Doodle. What I am firmly against are breeding trends and designer dog breeding. It’s a market that takes no responsibility for the inevitable losses of life.
A Dog With A Home
The agreement was clear—
We would take her on as a foster; train her, spay her and find her a forever home.
When we reached Atlanta, we were greeted by a 10-month-old, 65 lb. puppy who had zero training and had reached a size that was no longer manageable by our contact.
This was Rue.
Having been through two homes in less than a year, it was clear she had some catching up to do. And we were eager to help.
First, was her health. She needed to be spayed, vaccinated and plumped up to a healthy weight.
As we conquered those first steps and she settled into a routine, it became clear that training was a top priority. She had no leash experience, no socialization, and the scars of her first 10 months had left her bullish. In the wrong hands, she’d likely end up biting someone. Not because she’s mean, but because she never got the socialization she needed earlier on. Instead of learning social cues of play, she likely used rough play as a means to defend herself in homes where boundaries were never taught.
As the months continued, we realized that the progress of her training would require a level of commitment that surpassed the ‘normal’ pet owners commitment. We worried what might happen if she was left to her own devices, without that continued guidance.
And as it happens, more time passed, and it became evident that despite our insistence on being “foster parents”—Rue was already home. Not only was she happy right where she was, but we were too.
So we decided to adopt her.
In the way that only rescue dogs can, Rue came into our lives in the most unpredictable fashion. We weren’t looking for a “forever dog,” let alone a Newfoundland/Poodle. And yet, she brought the things that only the universe could know we needed: A commitment to patience through training and growth; her enthusiasm for life, bullish or not. Rue only knows how to experience life at the fullest.
With bear paws and the look of Chewbacca, Rue has enthusiasm that makes everyone she meets smile and laugh—us included. And, she taught me the most important lesson of all, one I needed to relearn on a deeper level:
It’s never the dog’s fault and I shouldn’t burden any particular animal with the burdens of mankind. Instead, how can I show the world that you can rescue every type of dog? Big, small, designer, mutt or otherwise.
The universe always delivers what you need.
And often, that looks a lot different than you imagined it (and usually, when you don’t expect it).
Rue’s legacy is living life at 110% and showing the world that “Rescue” is truly the best breed.
And yes, you can rescue each and every type of dog you can imagine. And if you need help, just message me and I can help, I promise.
In the meantime, you can follow Rue’s adventures and continued training and growth on my Instagram.
We have visions of her spreading her love of life through becoming a therapy dog. I hope she’s the reminder that with enough patience and commitment, you can help any dog reach their true potential.
've spent the past decade capturing love and chasing beauty across the globe, and I believe every story like yours is different and special, and deserves to be told exceptionally.
Drawing on years of experience in the fashion and editorial photography industry, my photographs are graceful, honest and boldly natural, while completely intentional. Whether it’s the opportunity to narrate the retelling of once-in-a-lifetime wedding days, or the ability to communicate issues of global importance, or all the stories in between, I look at photography as the method by which I get to leave the world a little better than I found it.