These creatures walk on the wild side - right along with their human companions
By Lisa James
It seems as if every picture ever taken has landed on Instagram—especially if that picture features an animal.
Well not really, but close enough. In less than 10 years, Instagram usage has zoomed to 1 billion active accounts, with more than 60% of users logging on daily and more than 40 billion photos shared.
A lot of that content is animal-related. According to a survey by Mars Petcare US, 25% of all photos posted on social media are related to pets and 13% of the respondents admitted that they post about their furry companions more often than about their human family members.
Besides all the pages featuring pugs in costumes and cats on Roombas, there are accounts that focus on a special kind of animal: The ones that follow their venturesome humans into the great outdoors. Here are some of their stories.
Pet/Person: Kahlua/Trevor DeHaas
Instagram account: trevorandkahlua
“After a spontaneous road trip up to Maine for some camping and backpacking, we were hooked,” Trevor DeHaas says about himself and his buddy Kahlua, a Catahoula Leopard Dog. DeHaas, 29, saw Kahlua as a puppy six years ago on Petfinder.com while
still living in his hometown of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. A few months after going to Maine, the pair hit the road in DeHaas’s Ford Escape for eight months. “Kahlua and I have been to some amazing places,” says DeHaas, a photographer. “We’ve hiked the deserts of Arizona, soaked in the natural hot springs of Utah, showered under the endless waterfalls of Oregon, camped on the coast of California, backpacked the rugged mountains of Washington and took cold baths in the glacial lakes of Canada.” Now living in Santa Cruz, California, the pair plans on moving to Bend, Oregon.
Pet/Person: Kicker/Andrew Muse
Instagram account: kickerdogmuse
Andrew Muse calls himself a “professional multi-sport athlete, content creator and social media influencer” on his site, Andrew Muse Productions— and much of his work focuses on Kicker, Muse’s Golden Retriever. Kicker’s Instagram account has more than 41,000 followers, while Muse’s own account, andrew_muse, has nearly 90,000.
Muse found his pal after a 2015 accident (while Muse was driving home from six months of filming the web series “Tiny Home Adventure”) took the life of his previous dog, Booter. One of the first responders came from a dog-breeding family, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Kicker was a traveler from the start. Muse says the dog “spent his puppy years living in a van with me in Alaska.” Snowboarding, paragliding, rock climbing—Kicker is up for it all. “He has a passion for doing all activities with me, especially when there is snow involved,” Muse says.
Want to take your dogs on your travels? Muse urges you to put their needs first; besides checking that a park is dog-friendly, “always have access to food and water, keep them comfortable and don’t put them in a situation where they have to stay in a hot car.”
Pet/Person: Puppi & Burma/Stephen Simmons
Instagram account: puppiandburma
Sometimes, an animal’s companionship grows into something more.
Stephen Simmons, 53, struggled with PTSD after serving with the Army in Iraq. He had found Puppi, a hound mix, several years earlier; she officially became his VA service dog in 2012. Puppi, now 15, is “a fearless dog, incredibly rugged and tough,” Simmons says.
The pair found Burma the cat, now six, in 2013 while living in their Jeep. “To him the forests and deserts were just amazing playgrounds,” Simmons recalls. “He had a big part in making life fun again.”
After Simmons started an Instagram account, a friend suggested a book project, The Adventures of Puppi and Burma (Blurb Books); the trio have also been featured in two short 2014 web films.
The Travels of a Special Facebook Cat
Some animals don’t let challenges slow them down. Take Trooper, a five-year-old cat who has traveled with Charla Stromkins from Vancouver along the Oregon coast down to the Bay Area. He has cerebellar hypoplasia, in which the part of the brain that controls coordination isn’t fully developed; this leads to a jerky, halting gait.
Stromkins, 43, who works for the province of British Columbia, got Trooper in 2014 after seeing a video about CH on YouTube. She says “my heart broke” when she learned that many cats with CH are euthanized. So she started her Facebook page to publicize the condition, saying Trooper “is not in any pain and does not know he is ‘different.’ His life is rich with love and health.”
Pet/Person: Loki/Kelly Lund
Instagram account: loki
The picture on the left— Loki, a seven-year-old malamute/husky/wolf mix, and his human pal, Kelly Lund, sharing a cuddle in a hammock— started the duo’s rise to fame in the social media world. Soon after it blew up in 2013, Lund left his job with the Denver city government to become a full-time photographer and Loki became a spokesdog, most notably for CBDinfused dog biscuits.
Lund says that Loki, unlike many dogs, is not an affection hound, always seeking attention. “Instead of him entering into my world, I felt that I had to listen closely and enter into his world, if this was going to work out,” notes Lund. He adds that Loki started traveling the backcountry at four months and before reaching his third birthday, had “seen most of the western US.”
Social Stardom Starts With Great Pics
Your pet may be an intrepid adventurer or a lazy layabout with a winning smile. But can he or she be the next great Instagram animal star? Perhaps, but only if you can supply all those adoring followers with an endless stream of quality images. Here’s how:
>> Ditch the flash—natural light is your friend. That’s especially true at dawn and dusk, when the light is warm and inviting. Avoid over- or underexposures, which will leave your pictures either dark or washed-out.
>> Use the rule of thirds to compose shots: Think of an image as a 3×3 grid, and align the objects (dog + mountain, tree, etc.) along those lines. The main image doesn’t always have to be at dead-center.
>> Try shooting from different vantage points, such as looking up from a prone position or getting higher to shoot down.
>> Be aware of what’s in the background; don’t let road signs, power lines or other distractions ugly up your photos.
As vital as highquality shots are, don’t forget other crucial aspects of a buzzworthy Instagram account, including some information about your companion, using relevant hashtags and engaging with your community