Anyone with an Instagram account, a hankering for adventure, and a dog has probably posted at least a few shots of themselves rucking around with their furry friend. That’s normal. What we have here is something else: a collection of the most inspiring human-and-canine teams that have taken outdoor adventure on social media to the next level.
Breed: 5-year-old male Golden Retriever
Adventure Companions: Hunter and Sarah Lawrence
Hometown: Austin, Texas
In April, photographers Sarah and Hunter Lawrence were touring New Orleans’ French Quarter with Aspen when he was recognized on three separate occasions. The Lawrences, both professional photographers, were blown away. Even more blown away were Hunter’s parents, who were in New Orleans alongside the couple. They hadn’t yet grasped the extent of their grand-dog’s fame. “What the heck is going on?” they laughed. What’s going on is 1) Aspen is really charismatic, and 2) the Lawrences specialize in brand-building for companies and nonprofits and take really great shots of their dog. “He has grown to expect attention like he got from the people in New Orleans,” says Hunter. “He loves to give people hugs. He leans as hard as he can on you and whimpers a little. It’s irresistible. He’s knocked a few total strangers over hugging them.”
While Aspen has become quite famous on Instagram, the Lawrences turn down lots of the opportunities that come their way. They prefer partnering Aspen with companies that sponsor good causes, like when Merrick Backcountry asked Aspen to be a part of National Take a Hike Day. To keep it fun, the Lawrences select photos for Aspen’s account based more on what makes them laugh than what they think people will want to see. “The cute photo of Aspen begging for food tableside gets more interaction than the one we snapped after a seven-hour hike to a waterfall,” says Hunter. “We’ve learned not to overthink it.”
Breed: 2-year-old male Golden Retriever/Malamute mix
Adventure Companion: Whitney Whitehouse
Hometown: Bend, Oregon
Whitehouse wasn’t looking for a dog, but when she saw a photo of the then-four-month-old Jasper at the shelter in eastern Washington, she was captivated. “He had the biggest smile and those wonky ears,” Whitehouse says. She took a day off work as a staff photographer from 10 Barrel Brewing in Bend and drove the eight hours that day to claim him. “I love to use Jasper’s account to inspire people to get outside by picking shots that show Oregon’s beauty,” says Whitehouse. It’s not hard. His portraits are shot in spots like Smith Rocks, the Oregon Coast, or the mossy McKenzie River Trail. “The biggest challenge is figuring out which awesome spot to take him after work,” she says.
Breed: 4-year-old male wolf/Husky/Malamute mix
Adventure Companion: Kelly Lund
Hometown: Denver, Colorado
Husky-wolf hybrids are notoriously difficult, prone to wandering off, challenging an owner’s authority, and wreaking massive havoc. “I named him Loki, after the Norse god of mischief,” says Lund. This Loki is quite chill, though, and that starts with exercise. Lund regularly runs Loki at 20 miles per hour alongside his bike in Denver and even alongside the truck when out on mountain roads. “He is a lot more focused and willing to pose for shots once he’s exercised,” says Lund. It also means letting him have the adventure he craves. “Loki doesn’t care about treats or pets on the head,” says Lund. “What he wants is to get out and sniff and explore. Because he gets so much adventure, I can’t remember the last time he destroyed something.” As it says right in Loki’s Instagram bio, Lund’s goal is to get people to go outside more often with their pups. It’s working. “People write to me all the time that Loki has inspired them to take their dog on more adventures,” Lund says.
Tim the Tooth Ninja
Breed: Henry, 6, male Golden Retriever; Rivers, 7, male Golden Retriever; and Bjorn, 2, male Russian Samoyed mix
Adventure Companion: Tim Mathews
Hometown: Fairbanks, Alaska
Tennessee-born Tim Mathews moved to Alaska with his wife and two Golden Retrievers after dental school four years ago and began posting to his Tim the Tooth Ninja account. “Alaska is awesome,” he says. “It’s not hard to find great pictures to shoot.” His account skyrocketed with the addition of Bjorn, the fluffy goofball Samoyed mix who was part of a stray litter in his neighborhood. “He has a face that makes fun pictures easy,” Mathews says. Fast-forward to today, and Mathews’s following has grown and also includes his two Goldens, Henry and Rivers. His account is a gallery of goofy dog portraits—dogs wearing sunglasses, hats, dental eyeshades, and his signature “face squooshing,” where he manipulates the dogs’ faces into a smile with his hands. The secret to making those shots work: holding his GoPro in his mouth so he can use his hands to direct, high five, or squoosh. And he sets the camera to shoot continuous frames: “Dogs move around a lot, so you have to keep the shutter firing,” says Mathews.
Breed: 5-year-old male Lab/Shepherd/Husky mix
Adventure Companion: Sam Davis
Davis got Diesel with his girlfriend (now wife) Jen when they were seniors at Pacific Lutheran University. He didn’t want a dog, but when they saw Diesel and his huge floppy ears at the shelter, “it was love at first sight. We thought he was going to break down the Plexiglass between us.” Davis and Diesel lived together in a garage while he finished his last college baseball season, trying to get the pup enough exercise that he wouldn’t destroy their meager living quarters. After college, the three of them began hiking in the wilderness around Seattle. The photos got better, the hikes more ambitious, and now Davis is a mountaineer with summits all over the Cascades. Diesel mostly stays home when the objective is technical, though he has summited Mount Hood. “I didn’t think it was that big a deal at the time, but everyone I met was pretty impressed,” says Davis. “He seemed happy.”
Paws that Wander
Breed: Ozzie, 3, male Golden Retriever, and Ripley, 2, female Siberian Husky
Adventure Companion: Amber Bailey
Bailey’s dogs get plenty of fan mail. “People send me framed pictures of my own dogs,” she says. “I have 45 collars, and almost all of them were gifts.” The reason? Bailey spends a lot of her time online talking smack about her younger dog Ripley, the Siberian husky. Ripley gets thousands of interactions, particularly on the videos where she howls, croons, and growls, as huskies do, or gets the “zoomies,” zipping around the house in a crouch. “People have no idea how hard huskies are,” says Bailey. “When she was between the ages of six to nine months, I honestly didn’t like her at all. She opens crates and chewed her way through chicken wire to get out of her basement enclosure. It didn’t matter how much we exercise her.” Ripley has mellowed out a bit, thanks in part to her brother, Ozzie. “They’ll do anything for a treat,” Bailey says. “They are both little piggies where food is concerned.”
West Coast Heeler Pack
Breed: Kona, 4, female Blue Heeler, and Cali, 3, female Red Heeler
Adventure Companion: Alicia Erskine
Hometown: Vancouver Island, British Columbia
Like most heelers, Kona and Cali have a lot of energy. Fortunately, Erskine, who runs a dog-hiking business, spends at least two hours a day hiking with them, an activity that’s just as beneficial to Erskine as it is to her furry friends. Two years ago, Erskine was hit by a car in a crosswalk and ended up with severe back and neck problems and a dose of PTSD. For therapy, she hiked with Kona and Cali, which she has since turned into a her full-time job. After the morning walks, Erskine spends at least two hours each day training Kona and Cali. Heelers are known for their trainability, and these two can walk on their hind legs, do handstands, open the fridge and bring you a beer, jump rope, and are currently working on skateboarding. “Cali is up to about 20 feet of actually pushing the board along with her foot,” says Erskine.
If your dog likes adventure, then they’ll love Merrick Backcountry. Made with high protein kibble and chunks of freeze-dried raw meat, Backcountry is perfect for dogs who love to go the extra mile. Whether you’re on top of a mountain or cuddling on the couch, Backcountry offers the same nutritional benefits of a raw diet. Cooked in the USA, our ultimate ancestral diet recipes are the best way to feed your dog’s wild side.