CANMORE – Using the power of social media to advocate for animals in need, a local dog lover is set to release her debut book exploring how the Internet can help homeless dogs find their forever homes.
Rachel Rodgers initially launched her Instagram @trailsandbears to post mountain biking photos and her art. The Instagram page was transformed after she began volunteering with shelter dogs and posting photos of the furry friends she would meet.
“Right now, I think my mission is to change society’s view of how we consume animals,” Rodgers said. “I’m trying to show each dog in their unique light, so that people do not have such a stigma from dogs from a shelter.
"There are really great dogs that just need to be introduced to somebody.”
Countless photos later, almost 80,000 people now follow her Trails and Bears Instagram account.
Her efforts to advocate for rescue dogs and support shelters have culminated in her book Adventures with Adoptable Dogs: An Instagram Guide for Animal Advocates that is set to be released by Rocky Mountain Books in the spring.
Rodgers volunteers at 16 shelters altogether spanning across Canada and includes Oregon and Washington in the United States.
“The more shelters that I volunteer at, I feel like the greater reach I can have, while helping navigate the mysterious Instagram world and social media,” Rodgers said. “It really helps dogs – I feel like it’s quite an untapped area for shelters, and it’s free.”
It has been an amazing experience being able to visit and help these shelters, she said, as each one offers unique learning opportunities.
“I’m learning along the way how each one of them works and trying to look for any way we can improve the system,” Rodgers said. “There’s the smallest household shelter to the largest government-subsidized shelter – I just see a lot of things that could be done better.
"Everyone is kind of running on the spot doing the best they can with what they’ve got. But I think somewhere a larger structural change is necessary. I’m just trying to learn enough so that I can figure out what that would be.”
Rodgers said that while fundraising is a universal struggle for shelters across the country, a bigger issue lies in educating the general public on why there are so many animals in need of homes and the need for legislation in regards to spaying/neutering pets and the breeding of animals.
“Control of the ultimate numbers that are out there is the ultimate problem,” Rodgers said. “There’s got to be a solution where we can get the number of dogs and the number of wanted dogs more equal.”
Rodgers is optimistic her book will give people a glimpse of the behind the scenes of shelters, she said, adding she hopes people are able to recognize the challenge faced in Canada when it comes to stray dogs in the country.
“People have their eyes-wide-shut sometimes and they think we’re bringing dogs in from Mexico and Canada doesn’t have a problem,” Rodgers said. “That’s not true.”
It is an on-going process of education, she said, adding that she hopes people are willing to take the time to learn more through her book.
Rodgers said she uses a mix of photos and videos for the dogs featured in Adventures with Adoptable Dogs and has perfected the art of using food to motivate her models and get them comfortable working in front of the camera.
She added that she is especially fond of filming animals because the dogs can really show off their personality and character.
“As soon as you get a dog comfortable, you can get a really good photo of them,” Rodgers said with a grin. “They just shine.”
The books begins with a guide on how to use social media to help dogs find homes, and includes 144 pages of her favourite furry models.
The guide featured in the book explores how to use Instagram and Facebook to get dogs adopted. Rodgers breaks down how to optimize hashtags, how to use geotags and includes a section just for shelter administrators.
“It’s a book that I’m really just hoping is going to get into the hands of people who want that information – and can use it to help dogs,” Rodgers said.
It is an awesome feeling knowing her book comes out in four months, Rodgers said, and she hopes people like it and take inspiration to create a change in the dog shelter system.
Adventures with Adoptable Dogs: An Instagram Guide for Animal Advocates is set to be released on April 7 and is available for pre-order from rmbooks.com/book/adventures-with-adoptable-dogs/ on Amazon, Café Books and Indigo.
“I want everybody to see how great these dogs are,” Rodgers said. “Then we can remove some of the social stigmas and get to the root of the problem hopefully.”